By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
The end of 2013 was not without sadness as Sultan lost longtime resident and pillar in the community, Bob Knuckey.
Knuckey, who lived in Sultan for over 30 years, began experiencing issues with his health during recent months due to complications stemming from diabetes and congestive heart failure. His condition lead to a decline in mobility that steadily worsened, and he passed away in the hospital on December 18, 2013 with friends and family present.
The 80-year-old community advocate was best known for his extensive volunteerism. He was responsible for founding Sultan’s Adopt-a-Street program, as well as coining the term “City Wide Pride” with his wife, Teresa Knuckey.
“Bob Knuckey was the perfect example of a great volunteer and great leader,” said Sultan Mayor and longtime friend Carolyn Eslick. “Never asked for anything that he wouldn’t do himself. His boots will be hard to fill.”
Sultan resident and real estate broker Frank Linth considered Knuckey one of his closest friends. He recalled Knuckey’s work on developing the Adopt-a-Street program.
“It just took off… It snowballed. He was the primary recruiting agent to get people to sign on,” said Linth. “It developed such a sense of volunteerism.”
Knuckey started the Adopt-a-Street program in 2008 with his wife, Teresa. The program allows citizens to choose a street or area of town to “adopt” and thereby be responsible for keeping the area litter-free. The city picks up the Adopt-a-Street refuse at no charge.
The advent of the Adopt-a-Street program and the Knuckey’s “City Wide Pride” concept ultimately resulted in Sultan becoming a leader in citizen volunteer participation. Miles of city streets and acres of local parks have been adopted by volunteers.
“Bob and Teresa are the ones who first coined the term ‘City Wide Pride,’” said fellow-volunteer Susie Hollenbeck. “I owe a lot to their community activism, as it allowed me and others to get on board with similar projects. Bob will be missed greatly!”
Bob and Teresa Knuckey were honored in 2011 as Sultan’s Citizens of the Year for their great efforts to improve the appearance of the community.
Knuckey was instrumental in cleaning up Osprey Park, working in the park both prior to the PUD improvement project as well as during PUD’s enhancement process. Knuckey worked at the park with his tractor, clearing trailways, spreading gravel and cleaning up garbage.
“He was down there every week doing something,” said Linth.
Osprey Park had some public safety issues in its early days, and Knuckey worked hard in an effort to make the park a safer place, helping to improve conditions so that citizens could feel secure as they walked through.
“He was very proud that he’d played a part in that,” Linth.
Knuckey was well-known for his strong business acumen, often advising new entrepreneurs in support of their endeavors. A business owner himself, Knuckey operated several successful companies throughout his career including a Bothell-based glass business and a lumber business in Sultan. He sold real estate briefly and was a skilled carpenter.
At 75, he became a member of Sultan’s Planning Board, serving the city for five years.
“He was a remarkable addition to the Planning Commission,” said Linth. “He did some terrific work.”
Knuckey had a great love and appreciation for the outdoors and was an avid golfer. He spent time on the golf course both with Linth and Sultan Chiropractic owner Brian Copple. He was notorious for his mischievous, and at times, quite inappropriate sense of humor.
Linth recalled Copple’s opinion of Knuckey’s business-sense.
“He and Bob used to play golf a lot together. He describes Bob as being the smartest, most capable businessman he’d ever met,” said Linth. “That’s how he describes Bob Knuckey.”
Copple’s wife, Sky Valley Chamber Director Debbie Copple, recalled Knuckey with fondness.
“When I think of Bob I always think about his great big booming laugh,” said Debbie. “You could hear him a mile away.”
Debbie remembered Knuckey as being supportive of her work at both the Sky Valley Chamber as well as the Sultan Education Foundation. She shared that Knuckey was never after recognition or praise. He was quietly proud; quietly a hero to those who knew him well.
“He was just always there in the background, making sure that whatever it was that we were working on was successful,” said Debbie.
Knuckey is survived by his two children; Cathy Barth and Mike Knuckey. In honor of their father’s wishes, there will be no funeral service, but Barth is considering a trip up to the Iron Goat Trail at some point in her father’s honor, and will possibly spread his ashes there.
There were murmurings at a recent Sultan City Council meeting about naming a trail after Knuckey, in recognition of all the work he did in Sultan’s city parks. He will be missed by his friends and family.
“At the end of the day, he left life on his terms,” said Linth. “He was my best friend.”
“He was just a bigger-than-life guy. Just a terrific, bigger-than-life guy,” said Linth.