In joining the Maine Troop Greeters night and day to welcome hundreds of thousands of troops stopping at Bangor International Airport as they left for war, or came home again, Bill Knight did a very good thing.
In sharing his life as one of three Troop Greeters profiled in the 2009 documentary, “The Way We Get By,” he helped this important story span the country, and did all he could to inspire other Mainers to follow in his footsteps and share what comes from their hearts.
Knight died on Christmas Day at 91, a World War II veteran who has been a man of service for pretty much all his life.
It was BDN columnist Joni Averill who in 1998 described him as a “Knight in shining armor” for his work with the 40-8 Disaster Relief Fund of the American Legion. The Bradford man was the local representative of Penobscot Voiture 427 of the Forty and Eight, an organization whose title dates to World War I.
“During World War I,” Knight told Averill, “they transported men and horses to the front lines in railroad boxcars, and the capacity of those boxcars were either 40 men, or eight horses. Thus, 40-8. We have one of those boxcars in Boothbay Harbor. The French gave every state a boxcar for the organization when it was founded after the war. Ours was at Camp Keyes in Augusta for some time, until we collected money to care for it and move it.”
Knight collected clothing and emergency relief supplies which he passed on to “Hurricane” Dick Hammond of Waterville, national director of the 40-8, and to the Salvation Army.
Bill is better-known as a Maine Troop Greeter. Knight, Joan Gaudet and Jerry Mundy traveled the country to help publicize “The Way We Get By,” with activities including a tour of the White House and meeting with Vice President Joe Biden.
Though I have Bill’s date of birth in 1922, I’ve been unable to trace William F. Knight through vital records or census records, but Knight is certainly an old Maine name. During the first U.S. Census of what is now Maine in 1790, there were 24 heads of household named Knight.
At least five of the Knight heads of household have been profiled in the 10 volumes of “Maine Families in 1790,” published by the Maine Genealogical Society.
In Volume 3, we find:
- Jeremiah Knight of Freeport, born about 1764 in Falmouth (now Portland) to William and Anna (Johnson) Knight. He had children by both first wife Mary Butler and second wife Susan Frost.
- John Knight of Berwick, baptized 1721 there, son of Grindal and Mary (Harris) Knight of Ipswich, Mass. He had children by first wife Olive Hamilton and second wife Mary Coffin.
- William Knight of Falmouth, born 1713 in Newbury, Mass., to Benjamin and Abigail (Jaques) Knight. He had children by first wife Sarah York and second wife Anna Johnson.
In Volume 6, we find:
- George Knight of Falmouth, born 1733 in Newbury, Mass., to Isaac and Mary (Gooding) Knight. He had 15 children by Esther Butman or Boatman.
In Volume 8, we find:
- Jonathan Knight, Plantations west of Machias, No. 22, Jonesboro, baptized 1737 in Scarborough, son of Westbrook and Abigail (Munson) Knight. He had several children by Mary Atkins.
I’ll be interested to find out if any of these families has a connection to Bill Knight of Bradford. But two “for sure” Bill Knight artifacts are photographs taken by BDN photographer Kevin Bennett.
One shows Bill Knight on the reviewing stand in Bangor during the 2011 Memorial Day Parade, lifting his World War II walking stick in salute to the veterans who are saluting him with their walking sticks. The photo was reprinted with the BDN story on Bill Knight’s passing on Christmas Day, prompting an enthusiastic “Wow” from Galen Cole, who founded the walking stick program for Maine veterans through the Cole Land Transportation Museum.
Cole is one of the veterans who plans to take his walking stick to Bill Knight’s funeral at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12, at Brookings-Smith for one last salute to this veteran we will long remember.
The other Bill Knight photo shows him with Korean War veteran Harold Hansen of Bangor at the World War II Memorial in Washington on Sept. 23, 2005. It was surely a moment in time as 140 people — veterans of four eras, Maine Troop Greeters, Cole Museum volunteers and community members — took a one-day trip organized by Cole Museum, with plane donated by Pan Am and buses provided by Cyr Bus Co.
So many of the elder passengers on that trip are gone now, but how grateful I am that we made that trip together and sang the National Anthem led by Washington Academy student Rianne Barker.
The photo of Knight and Hansen ran in The Weekly, as did the list of all those on the trip. My tribute to Bill Knight and all of his comrades who have gone on before him is to run the list here in the BDN, in print and digitally. You’re a part of history, Bill.
Military veterans, World War II through Iraq, were: Richard Banker, Clair Bemis, Barry Bennett, John Buckingham, Warren Burns, James Butler Jr., Wayne Cartier, the Rev. Sidney Buzzell, Austin Carter, Ralph “Billy” Carter, Wayne Cartier, Galen Cole, Don Colson, Willard Prior Crofoot, Paul Curtis, John J. Cushing Jr., Joseph Cyr, Philip Cyrus, Clarence Daigle Sr., Alfred Dall, Debra Daniels, Robert Darveau, William Dean, William Deering, Wayne Desjardins, Maj. Rick Dickinson, Ralph Dunbar, Philip Eckert, Guy Ellms, Nancy Ellms, Frank Farrington, John Ferriday, Rep. Charles “Dusty” Fisher, Orin D. Fogg, John Frawley, Nolan Gibbs, Albert Gibson, Richard Giffard, Robert Glidden, Ralph Goss, Patrick Groleau, Donald Guptill, Dolores Hainer, Harold Hansen, Tom Hardy Sr., Leon Higgins II, William Horr, Barbara Jewell, Frank Jewell, Earl Kingsbury, William Knight, Charles Knowlen, Walter LaPointe, George Lindeman, William MacDonald, Andrew Maliszewski, Ruby Maliszewski, Paul Martin, Donald Mattson, Estol McClintock, Alfred Meister, Delmont Merrill, John Moore, Gerald Mundy, Norman Nelson, Thomas Newman, Louis Pare, Raymond Perkins, Peter Perry, Norman Rossignol, Marion A. Rudnicki, Harold Scribner, Donald Swett, Charles Titcomb, Russell Treadwell, Gordon Warner, Clifford West, Paul Wilbur and Francis Zelz.
Troop greeters included: Ina Banker, Richard Banker, Clair Bemis, Deborah Bickford, Joanne Black, Kelly Bradeen, Ricky Bradeen, Sam Bradeen, Evelyn Bradman, Ronald Bradman, John Buckingham, Judy Butler, James Butler Jr., the Rev. Sidney Buzzell, Don Colson, Donald R. Crosby, John J. Cushing Jr., Alfred Dall, Debra Daniels, Rebecca Davis, William Dean, Wayne W. Desjardins, Maxine Doucette, Mary K. Drew, Philip S. Drew, Marguerite Eckert, Philip Eckert, Rep. Charles “Dusty” Fisher, Joan Gaudet, Joyce Goodwin, Donald Guptill, Gloria Guptill, Harold Hansen, Carol Johnston, William Knight, Catharine Lebowitz, Donald Mattson, Angie Moore, John Moore, Gerald Mundy, Patti Pelletier, Peter Perry, Norman Rossignol, Jeanne Rudnicki, Marion A. Rudnicki, Donna Sorkin, Gordon Warner and Francis Zelz.
Cole Museum volunteers were: Margharetta Beitzell, Austin Carter, Betty Clement, Galen Cole, Don Colson, Janet Cole Cross, Betty Davis, John Frawley, Robert Glidden, Ralph Goss, Jean Howell, Beatrice Knight, Polly Lindeman, Louise Perkins, Lillian Rivers, Barbara Swett, Charles Titcomb and Phyllis Wilbur.
School volunteers included: Rianne Barker, Julie Barker, Debra Butterfield, Jon Cyr, Crystal Dow, Patrick Groleau, Norman Nelson, Lois O’Leary and H. Tim Thornton. Community members were: Gov. John E. Baldacci, Janice Prior Crofoot, Heather Goldsmith and Lance McLeish.
The next class offered at the Bangor Family History Center, 639 Grandview Ave., Bangor, will be “Bringing Your Family Tree to Life by Adding Pictures and Stories,” with Gail Kill. The time is 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, with a snow date of Jan. 18. All are welcome to attend this free program.
The Wassebec Genealogical Society will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, in the meeting room at Mayo Regional Hospital on Main Street, Dover-Foxcroft. Jack Battick, will give a program on “The Importance of Creating a Family Medical History.”
Having heard Jack speak many times, I am sure his talk will feature several fascinating examples in addition to useful information. For more information or directions, call 564-3576.