Dan Dowd: One of the privileges I have as a pastor is to serve the many faithful seniors in the local congregations, and in turn to learn about their lives and the calling God has given to them. A few years ago I decided to go through the local member files in order to make note of when all of the local members were baptized. I had quite a few pleasant surprises when I undertook this task, the most impressive being the reason for this article.
Mrs. Phyllis Knapp attends the Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, congregation. She was baptized August 15, 1950—70 years ago. I decided I wanted to know more about Mrs. Knapp, but the reason I didn’t know much about her is that for about 15 years her mind has been deteriorating from Alzheimer’s Disease. Since I couldn’t talk much with Mrs. Knapp about her life, I decided to ask her daughter, Janice Kleier, to put together her mom’s life story. I wanted to share this with a wider audience to not only honor Mrs. Knapp, but also to inspire all of us with the legacy of a truly faithful member of the Body of Christ.
What follows is from Janice Kleier about her mother:
My mom wrote her Reflections, The Paul and Phyllis Knapp Story after she retired and moved to Missouri in 1997 at the age of 75. For this mini bio I mostly quote her own words (in italics).
My parents, Paul Lester Knapp Jr. and Hazel Phyllis Jones Knapp were both born and raised in southern Missouri. Dad was raised devout Baptist and Mom’s family was “social Methodist” (Mom’s description): “They participated in every social activity and party (no smoking, drinking, dancing, gambling, no makeup, etc.).”
Mom always went by her middle name because her mother was also Hazel.
Education was a primary goal in my Mom’s life from quite an early age and all through high school. Then came World War II. “There came a day when I made a profound decision. I wanted a career where I could serve the community and be a part of something. I began to think I might not marry and didn’t want to have just a job, but I wanted a career.”
In her biography, my mom wrote a great deal about her struggles to get an education during the war years, supporting herself while going to college. At age 22 she had obtained the necessary 30-hour Teaching Certificate and was hired to teach in a one-room school. “I felt responsible and pleased with my grown-up self. I’m glad for the experience of teaching in a one-room school, but this led to another major [realization]: I needed more education. I enrolled in Southwestern Missouri State Teachers College for the fall of 1945.”
“I met a nice decent guy,” which led to several long and cute stories. Paul Lester Knapp and Hazel Phyllis Jones married Aug. 11, 1946.
“Paul had a stronger belief in God than I did. Just a chance listen to a radio talk changed our lives. Paul began listening to the World Tomorrow broadcast. My intention was to prove Mr. Armstrong way off base. We began a life-long habit of studying our Bibles 2 hours every morning while drinking coffee. Paul sent off for booklets and literature that brought about some life altering changes. We, together, wrote and asked about baptism. In early August 1950 we received a letter telling us to meet a baptizing team at the Post Office in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. We were baptized in the Caney River, which flows through Bartlesville, August 15, 1950. The young married couple of the baptism team was Raymond and Myra Cole. At this point we knew about the Seventh day Sabbath from sundown to sundown but the Holy Days were still a mystery. We went to California in spring 1951 for Passover and 1st day of Unleavened Bread, a trip of 1,500 miles. If we had only known we could have gone 500 miles to Gladewater, Texas!
“Our first Feast of Tabernacles was Belknap Springs, Oregon. We still have that handwritten letter from Loma Armstrong dated September 18, 1951 telling us where to meet on October 14. We were to bring warm blankets. We loaded up the car with plenty of coffee and warm blankets and our two children, Carl Mitchell, 4 years, and Janice Elaine, 1 year, and our little family of four made the three-day trip to Oregon.
“The next Holy Day we made plans for Pentecost, which didn’t happen—instead I gave birth to our third child, William Edward, on June 2, 1952.
“Another momentous decision: Because the building trade was falling off in the Midwest and booming in California, we decided to sell everything except necessities and move to California. We packed the car for the Feast of Tabernacles fall 1952 and drove to Seigler Springs, California. Keeping the Feast was wonderful!
“Afterward we started our new lives in southern California. My uncle and several of my Dad’s cousins lived in Azusa. They made us welcome. Paul found work immediately and I found a small furnished duplex. Because of our early morning Bible study habit we laid a solid foundation of faith and knowledge through many years of trials and difficulties.”
“During those early California years we drove 13 miles to Pasadena for Radio Church of God services in the building that later became the Ambassador College Library.
“Fast forward a few years, I began teaching at Imperial School in Pasadena, but the State of California required more education so while I was teaching full time I was also taking classes at Ambassador College (AC). I switched jobs and majors to work at the library and got a bachelor of arts degree in library science in June 1961. I loved it! I feel this was the right career for me.
“In the late 1960’s Ambassador College began a concentrated effort to seek accreditation. The library had to grow! I was assigned ‘cataloging and processing.’ I held that position for 15 years through several changes in library administration. I spent a few months in the reference department before I was given a special assignment (1986). I was asked to organize and process the Herbert W. Armstrong private papers. I worked in a remote secure area for three years to complete the project.” [Side note: It was actually the basement of Herbert Armstrong’s house, not far from the original library building.]
“Shocking news! It was announced that the Pasadena Campus would close and the library would be packed up and sent to combine on the Big Sandy, Texas campus. I was 67 years old and expected to be retired, but they asked me to transfer! Paul loved the idea! We moved to Texas June 1990..
“After many months of getting the library holdings in place and the library systems up and running, I was asked to establish a new department! So exciting! All the rare books (i.e. published before 1800) and all the church literature would be under my jurisdiction and placed in a separate, secure room.
“It was a challenging and absorbing job. I regard it as the pinnacle of my library experiences. This continued another seven years. Finally, after 50 years, my unique experience in education came to an end in June 1997.
“We retired 500 miles north to the Springfield, Missouri, area and that August celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. We’d come home and had almost three golden retirement years. Paul got sick and died July 5, 1999.”
Mrs. Knapp lived in their beautiful retirement house with her dog until October 2007 when she moved to live with her daughter and son-in-law in Wisconsin. She has poor memory issues and is reasonably healthy but fragile, although still walking around the house and using a wheelchair when out of the house. Mrs. Knapp turned 96 on Nov. 22, 2019.