I once read, “If there is any immortality to be had among human beings, it is only in the love that we leave behind.” We come together to remember a unique. loving life that bridged the world and broadened our horizons. Dad lived life as an enduring independent spirit and left a legacy showing us how to navigate waters both rough and still.
To the world, he was a father. To our family, he was the world.
Thomas Knecht was born May 22, 1950 in Belleville, Illinois to Wayne and Lela Knecht. He led an uncommon life.
As a child, he was intrepid and undaunted. One episode involved the Mississippi River, a small boat, and almost being run over by a huge barge. At seven, he suffered a serious injury that almost sent him home early. Nonetheless, he endured and excelled in life, and graduated from Belleville Township High School West.
It was 1968, a time of global conflicts and cultural revolutions. His next adventure was joining the US Air Force, leaving his parents and siblings Ron, Kathy, Lisa and Brent. After basic training and tech school, he was stationed at Clarke Air Force Base in the Philippines – about as far as you can get from the Midwest.
Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Immersed in a totally different land and culture, he served his country, made friends, attended the University of the Philippines, and met the woman with whom he would later have a family. The path he took to “bridge the world.” Dad bridged two cultures in creating his family. Doing so, he expanded the views of his and our lives.
Among the writings he kept was this: “It is said that branches draw their life from the vine. Each is separate and yet all are one, as they share one main stem.”
Dad honored tradition and had a strong sense of duty. He and mom often cooked traditional German and Filipino foods. We grew up observing American and Filipino traditions. He blessed us with servant leadership to his family.
He believed persistence and a good work ethic brings fulfillment of goals.
Tom was a jack of all trades. He could build a house, fix your car, cook a mean steak, write well, survive outdoors, talk philosophy, and much more. He taught his children and others these invaluable skills.
He passed to us technical and problem-solving skills. He also taught us to be critical thinkers and have an independent, objective view of life and current events. Dad believed possessions are not the key to happiness, but he taught us to value things we had earned or were given.
In good times and bad, he was as consistent as the tide. He never burdened us with the stress of financial or relational uncertainty. He endeavored through life changes, taking things in stride.
He lived life on his terms and never lost his adventurous spirit. He traveled and explored, taking many photos. And he continued to develop the built environment and world around him. He stayed busy, always on the move. Project after project, his hands were never idle.
As his own children became parents, he enthusiastically became grandpa. He loved his grandchildren Brandon, Lacey, Evelyn, Benjamin, Lela, Jacob and Joshua with every fiber of his being. He also loved his many nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, parents and siblings.
Later, health issues arose. He got treatment and was cautiously optimistic. He kept high spirits and weathered the storm. At a low point, he was blessed with a transplant three years ago. We are forever grateful to the person who allowed us more time with him.
Then cancer gripped him. Everyone knows he fought and endured this menace. He didn’t give up. On Sunday June 21, Father’s Day, Thomas Knecht passed on. Dad went peacefully with dignity. That day will always have an extra special meaning to us.
Ron Knecht, MS, JD &PE(CA), has served Nevadans as state controller, a higher education regent, economist, college teacher and legislator. Contact him at RonKnecht@aol.com.