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Edgar H. Knapp
(February 19, 1922 - October 29, 2012)

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Edgar H. Knapp

With an AB out of Wesleyan University in 1943, Ed Knapp became Communications Officer on the LST 688, which in the final days of WWII fought off a hail of suicide planes off Ie Shima, northernmost of the Ryuku Islands. Off watch during the war, he read books and wrote immature verse, which along with his strong interest in athletics, stoked his ambition to become a teacher/coach. Before coming to Penn State in 1962, Ed taught in private and public schools in Massachusetts, of which he was a native, and in the suburbs of New York City. Prior to 1953 Ed cites the dangerous game he played of rearing up on his hind legs in contests with administrators. Young Knapp’s independent thinking in the face of conventional authority cost him two and nearly three jobs. During a 17-year span, however, he earned an EdD from Teachers College Columbia to add to his 1950 MA from Boston University. His energies spent coaching football, baseball and wrestling were re-directed to matters of high school curriculum. He was deeply thoughtful about the teaching of English. Reading poetry aloud was a gift that led to Ed’s doctoral project and eventual publication of anthologies for secondary classrooms, first titled Introduction to Poetry with McCormick/Mathers, and later a series (Ideas and Patterns in Literature ) for Harcourt/ Brace. The fact is that on and off his classroom stage Ed was a show-off and an entertainer. Department heads and students at Penn State abided his 29 years there--teaching literature and writing courses, educational methods, humanities, American studies, and literary criticism. Counseling future English teachers was another happy duty. The lights of his private life were family, headed by wife Susan, who died in 1984, much appreciated by her communities of Wayland MA, Huntington NY, and State College PA. Sue and Ed were the parents of seven talented daughters: V, Suey, Jackie, Ann, Lisa, Kellie, and Betsy and of one congenial son Jonathan in 1964. Ed, ever the admirer of bright women who are Democrats, brought a second lovely public servant to State College, and the Knapp family; and now the whole town loves Sally! In courting his former star student from Natick High School, Ed asked if she had had a crush on him. Sally answered, “Hell no, we thought you were crazy.” From the 1970’s to his retirement Ed crafted several reflective essays, such as an update of his ship’s history, or a tribute to a departed friend. These he pieced together to become his autobiography, self-published in 2000 with the title B-in the course – An Academic Life. Thinking he’d finally learned how to write a memoir – and convinced that his lucky life was lighted by the friends he’d made, he did a continuation of the story, titled Hanging the Portraits and Other Exhibitions in 2009. So many friends eased his way and bucked him up! Far too many to cite in this obit. Nonetheless in his writings those great people get their due and you may meet them in greater detail on his website : In fact, his geekish associates assisted his copying onto the website his naughty novel The Merger, a critical essay, and a selection of his own poems, entitled To Troy and Back. In many ways poetry was his bread and butter. The poets he especially cared for were noted for their playful wisdom. On campus there were John Haag and Robert Glenn Weaver; elsewhere, the American in Didsbury, Linda Chase. Now all three, alas, are in the great hereafter in the witty company of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and John Crowe Ransom. (Vachel Lindsay, Ed ranked as a “word patriot,” a term coined by critic Mark Seinfelt.) Despite the occasional visit of sadness, Ed was grateful for his genes and nine daily pills. They with the kind wisdom of Dr. Stephen Keil have helped him become a happy old man, having fun writing his own obituary notice. When Ed of his old age looked in a bathroom mirror, he saw his grandfather. Not the God-fearing lumberman but the up-country farm boy devoted to rascality. Perhaps they both had played some risqué games that were selfish—nothing to be puffed up about. True, his good wives maintained a “swollen ego watch.” To their aid, Ed’s own conscience was an inner devil to pitchfork his angelic aspirations. Fierce dialectic between those inner-selves forced Ed to confess to a string of his pretentions – such as looking like a senator without a constituency. Other accusations he could not refute were being a spoiled child, a closet-hypochondriac, and a tin-horn philanthropist. He only survived the agony by contending that he did have a soul-- bopping the little devil with lines from William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus:” It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

He certainly tried to be his own person. Writing this last message to the world, he focused on being honest about his imperfections. But still he wanted to pontificate regarding what helped him get through the final decade. The lucky ones, he said, have the impulse to risk saying “I love you,” in an individual way and, then, doing so. That action ensures peace and comfort before “the busy world is hushed and our work is done. . . .” The memorial service will be held at 11 am on Thursday, November 15, at Koch Funeral Home, State College. Family will receive friends from 5:30 to 8 pm on Wednesday evening, November 14 at the funeral home. Ed saw travel and arrangements attendant upon a memorial service as formidable for many. Appreciating our busy lives, he desires for friends who cannot attend, to select a quiet time at their own convenience to remember him--perhaps during a concert or a saunter through the glories of our natural world. Give to Centre Volunteers in Medicine, or a favorite charity, if you will. Ed is survived by his wife of 27 years, Sally (Tuthill), daughters Valeria Gregg (Jed) of Bloomsburg, PA, Suey Irvine of San Luis Obispo, CA, Jacqueline Knapp of New York City, Ann Holly Snyder (Jim) of Los Gatos, CA, Elisa Smith (Greg) of Gardners, PA, Kellie Gibboney (Ben) of Pleasant Gap, PA, Betsy Taylor (Jon) of Orleans, MA, son Jonathan Knapp of Rockport, MA. , and step children George Fuller (Beth) of Seabrook, NH, Gina Tansey (Jamie) of Sidney, ME, and Todd Fuller (Kimberly) of Warriors Mark, PA. He leaves grandchildren Christina , Jacqueline, Chad, Jessica, Danielle, Retta, Kaycee, Susan , Benjiman, Tyler, Ashley and Eamon., and seven great grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his wife Susan (Kenney), a half brother, John Holly Knapp II, and half sister Valeria Addams Knapp, and a grandson, Gavin Irvine. His parents were John Holly Knapp and Elgie Cotton Knapp, and his hometown was Wayland, MA. Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at www.kochfuneralhome.com.


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