VENICE, Fla. — After her birth on July 17, 1912, in Norwich, N.Y., Eleanor lived her 100 years in many places since her father was a minister and evangelist, and her first husband, John A. Knapp Sr., was a doctor sent to the South in WWII, where Eleanor and John lived most of their lives. These places included Norwich; Chicago; St. Louis; Johnson City, Elizabethton and Kingsport, Tenn.; Charlottesville, Va.; and Englewood and finally at Venice, Fla., at Village on the Isle where she died on October 15.
As a child, she and her family were good friends of Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Johnson of Chicago (recovering from a childhood illness in their home) and Hollywood, Calif. In the 1930s, Johnson built “Scotty’s Castle,” that later became the centerpiece of Death Valley National Park. After attending Wheaton College (Ill.) for two years, then stepping aside so her sister could attend, she married, and raised a son John II (the one writing this; email@example.com) and a daughter Deborah. Later when I went to Wheaton College, Eleanor, fulfilling a suppressed childhood dream, began a new major — physics (with calculus) — at nearby East Tennessee State, commuting to classes with some friends who graduated with me.
However, she didn’t quite finish her degree since my father, then a country doctor who delivered babies for $25, then $50, each gave up his family practice in Tennessee to undertake a residency in psychiatry at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Recent cards and phone calls mention the many Bible studies Eleanor led and women’s club events she participated in. From far away come memories of her love of life and the kindness she expressed to family and friends. Not to be forgotten was her wonderful cooking that led The Elizabethton STAR on September 9, 1954 to feature her and her recipes as “Cook of the Week.”
Particularly noticeable in her last years was how she slowly and gracefully accepted the losses that come with age. She was convinced that a series of random, purposeless movements of atoms and molecules — even over 13.7 billion years — could not lead to my writing and your reading these words (though she’d might say this a bit differently). She was also convinced that the Bible is the one unique book that tells us in whom to trust and how to live. And that there was much more to come after death. The staff of her last home loved her. Peacefully, she prepared to meet God whom she worshiped all her life.
Eleanor is predeceased by her parents, Dr. Paul Riley Allen and Gertrude Hicks Allen; her brother, John, who died as a young child; her first husband, Dr. John A. Knapp Sr.; her daughter Deborah; and her second husband, Norman Coates, who she married late in life.
She is survived by her vibrant sister, Polly Souder (who is only a bit younger); her son, John A. Knapp II (that’s me) and wife Karen; her grandchildren, Ethan A. Knapp (& Adi) , (Greg &) Phoebe Knapp Cole, Eli J. Knapp (& Linda), and Andrew N. Knapp (& Kandace); and three great-grandchildren, Ezra, Indigo and Evangeline. Also not to be forgotten are the loving families of her second husband, Dick and Judy Coates, Bill and Betty Jean Hart, Bob and Jane Mazey; and their children and grandchildren.
My favorite final memory of Mom was when she told me, just months before the end of her life and our one-table 100th birthday celebration, when I was the only person she could still identify (most of the time), “I read your new novel three times and it’s the best book I ever read!”
She had a great imagination!
Eleanor passed away in her sleep. We had her “life celebration” when she turned 90. Now those who really knew her are almost all gone, or live far, far away. There will be no funeral, no flowers, no service. But if you still want to “give,” take that “extra money” and surprise someone else, and do it in her memory. She’d like that.
Lemon Bay Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Englewood, Fla., (941) 474-5575.