Troop greeter Bill Knight dies Christmas Day at the age of 91

Bradford resident and World War II veteran Bill Knight greets U.S. troops back from Iraq at Bangor International Airport in 2004.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Bradford resident and World War II veteran Bill Knight greets U.S. troops back from Iraq at Bangor International Airport in 2004. Buy Photo
Posted Dec. 25, 2013, at 5:10 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 26, 2013, at 3:03 p.m.

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A 'welcome home' and a handshake are what troops passing through Bangor, Maine have been receiving and the first person that they get it from is Bill Knight such as here,  Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009.
Michael C. York | BDN
A 'welcome home' and a handshake are what troops passing through Bangor, Maine have been receiving and the first person that they get it from is Bill Knight such as here, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009.
Film producer Gita Pullapilly and Maine Troop Greeter Bill Knight share a moment prior to the debut of &quotThe Way We Get By" on Thursday, April 9, 2009, at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine in Orono.
Film producer Gita Pullapilly and Maine Troop Greeter Bill Knight share a moment prior to the debut of "The Way We Get By" on Thursday, April 9, 2009, at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine in Orono. Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — Well-known Maine troop greeter Bill Knight died Christmas Day at the Maine Veterans Home at the age of 91.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Knight, along with Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet, was featured in the documentary “The Way We Get By,” produced by Gita Pullapilly and her husband, Aron Gaudet. Knight and the couple grew close during the four years they worked on the film, which premiered in 2009 to great acclaim, Pullapilly said Wednesday.

The nonagenarian was a member of the Bangor Troop Greeters, a group that gathers at Bangor International Airport to welcome soldiers as they return from overseas conflicts or wish them well as they leave for deployments. Knight was the oldest of the three greeters featured in the 2009 documentary.

A 32-year U.S. military veteran, Knight estimated in 2011 that he had shaken hands with more than a half-million troops leaving for or returning from the war in the Middle East.

On his first visit to BIA as a guest of the Bangor Troop Greeters, former Chief Petty Officer Knight found new meaning to his life, according to a 2011 report published in the Bangor Daily News.

It was almost 10 years before he missed a single flight, driving to and from the airport as many as eight times a day. Greeting men and women who fought for our country brought back a joy Knight had not experienced in years, the story said.

Knight outlived two daughters and two wives, lost his farm and was close to homelessness before hearing from a friend two years ago about the Veterans Aid and Assistance program, a little-known benefit that pays qualified wartime veterans and their surviving spouses up to $1,949 a month in aid and living assistance, according to a previously published report.

He and his costars of “The Way We Get By” traveled extensively in late 2009 and early 2010 promoting the film. They met Vice President Joe Biden and were featured in the May 10, 2010, edition of People magazine.

Knight was at BIA in March 2010 to greet the 1 millionth soldier met by Troop Greeters to pass through BIA.

Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday that “I am saddened to learn of the death of Bill Knight. In 2009, I had the privilege of welcoming Bill, along with Joan and Jerry, to a special screening of the documentary, “The Way We Get By” that I hosted at the United States Capitol. I remember how pleased Bill was with the film, but I especially remember how proud he was of all of the young Americans who leave the comfort and security of home to defend our freedom and to extend the blessing of freedom to others. Bill was a patriotic American who gave of himself to honor and support our men and women in uniform. His dedication will be remembered.”

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