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Published: Friday, 10/7/2005

Philanthropist fostered growth of community

Knight Knight
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Edward Ford Knight, 96, a businessman and philanthropist who was the last surviving child of industrialist W.W. Knight, Sr., died yesterday in his Perrysburg home.

The cause of death was not known. His son, Christopher, said Mr. Knight had not been ill, but died of natural causes.

Mr. Knight, known to his friends as "Eb," was a man of many interests.

In the business world, Mr. Knight was vice president and secretary of Bostwick-Braun Co., a Toledo-based firm that became one of the nation's largest hardware wholesalers; he was for a time president of the Nicholas Building Co., and was president of the former TAG airline (short for Taxi Air Group Inc.)

He also served on the boards of a number of charitable organizations. And he was a pilot, musician, and outdoorsman.

Mr. Knight was one of five children of the late William W. Knight, Sr., a banker, industrialist, and civic and philanthropic leader, who died in 1968 at the age of 90. The Knight family held major interests in several Toledo banks, including the former Toledo Trust Co. and the former First National Bank, both of which were absorbed by large banks 15 years ago.

And the Knight family held land that later became the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Belmont Country Club, and the W.W. Knight Nature Preserve of the Wood County Park District.

"I think he was well aware of the blessing of being born into a family of privilege, and he felt it was important to give back," his son said. "One of his most important philanthropic ventures was building the hospice on River Road." The Perrysburg Township hospice facility was dedicated in 1995 as the Edward and Marion Knight Hospice Center in honor of him and his wife of 65 years.

Mr. Knight was "a gentleman in the truest sense of the word, somebody who had enormous goodwill," his son said.

"He was a Renaissance man," said his daughter, Lynn McAtee. "He was a fisherman, a sailor, a hunter, a musician and a pilot privately and in wartime. This was really his passion. He is in the Soaring Hall of Fame in Elmira, N.Y."

Mr. Knight was a longtime board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo and was a supporter of Planned Parenthood. He was a director of the former First National Bank and was a founder of Belmont Country Club.

"It's the end of an era. That occurred to me very dramatically," said John Spitzer, 87, president of the Spitzer Building who as a Marshall and Melhorn partner handled legal matters for Mr. Knight. "The Knights were among the Toledo community leaders."

Mr. Knight and his wife were frequent chaperones at Maumee Valley Country Day School student functions. As a Maumee Valley student there, Carty Finkbeiner, the former Toledo mayor, met Mr. Knight.

After Mr. Finkbeiner graduated from college, Mr. Knight and John Morse, the late industrialist, encouraged the young man to become involved in what is now the Boys and Girls Club.

"I was complimented as a 23 or 24 year old that this very well-heeled, established, and recognized powerhouse of a person in our city was taking an interest in me," said Mr. Finkbeiner, who has remained involved as an associate trustee.

Mr. Knight's era was that of the "gentleman civic leaders of the city," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "They may have lived in Perrysburg [or] Sylvania Township, but they cared deeply about the art museum, they cared about a revitalized downtown Toledo.

"He wanted to encourage his sons and daughter and friends of his sons and daughter, of which I was one, to care about this community and its quality of life the way he and his peers cared," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "This we miss because some of the children have gone to other places to call home."

The void created by the deaths of those civic leaders has not been filled.

"I don't know that the hole will be filled, but the rest of us have to try," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Jonathan Orser, a former Perrysburg mayor and city council member, said: "The Knights are part of the extended Ford family, and I think all of us have had a sense of supporting the community and in trying to advance the community in a development sense."

The late Edward Ford founded the Edward Ford Plate Glass Co., which later became the Libbey-Owens-Ford Co.

Mr. Orser's mother, Grace Ford, and Mr. Knight's mother, Edna Ford, were first cousins.

Mr. Knight was a pilot and "a classic outdoorsman - hunting, fishing, skiing, boating. He played golf and tennis," Mr. Orser said.

"He was very comfortable with himself," Mr. Orser said. "He was interested in a variety of activities and enjoyed discussing and participating in those with his relatives and friends."

Mr. Knight, a trombonist and jazz lover, was a member in the 1940s and 1950s of the Chamber Music Society of Lower Second Street - along with Jonathan's father, Horace Orser, and several friends. The ensemble played Chicago-style traditional jazz for friends and at parties.

Robert Wingerter, who retired in 1979 as chairman of the Libbey-Owens-Ford Co. (now a part of Pilkington PLC), said Mr. Knight was one of the first friends he made when he came to Toledo in 1967. They continued to boat, fish, golf, and travel together.

"He had an amazing amount of energy," Mr. Wingerter, 89, said. "He was still playing golf."

"He was a very friendly type, and amiable," Mr. Wingerter said.

Mr. Knight was born to William W. and Edna Ford Knight. He graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., and from Yale University.

He started flying in 1928, and got his pilot's license the following year. In 1932, he learned to glide at a glider school in Germany. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1936 and was on active duty from 1940 to 1946, reaching the rank of colonel in the Pacific Theater.

"He was a rather special person to me," said his nephew Milton F. "Tony" Knight, a Perrysburg entrepreneur. "He was special because he really cared. He was probably my favorite uncle. He was just a great person."

Tony Knight added, "My fondest memory was playing golf with him when he was 93. We finished third [in a Belmont Country Club contest]."

Mr. Knight was a member of Belmont Country Club and the Carranor Hunt & Polo Club. He was a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Toledo.

His son, Edward F., Jr., died June 13, 2000.

Surviving are his wife, Marion, whom he married Jan. 27, 1940; daughter, Lynn McAtee; son, Christopher Knight; seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

There will be no visitation. Burial will be in Historic Woodlawn Cemetery. Memorial services will be at 3 p.m. Monday in St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, of which he was a member. Arrangements are by the Witzler-Shank Mortuary, Perrysburg.

The family suggests tributes be to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio or to Planned Parenthood of Northwest Ohio Inc.



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