Raymond “Gene” Knauss, a basketball star at Whitmer High School who went on to be a teacher and administrator in the Washington Local Schools, died Wednesday in his West Toledo home. He was 77.
He was being treated for heart problems, but his death was “very unexpected,” his wife, Pat, said.
Mr. Knauss retired in 1994 after seven years as an associate principal at Whitmer, where he oversaw the school’s vocational center.
“Gene was a strong leader and a quality guy,” said Gerry Lonsway, who also retired in 1994 as a Whitmer associate principal. “He worked hard and cared a lot about the programs and the kids there.”
From 1966 to 1987, Mr. Knauss was principal of either Washington Junior High or Jefferson Junior High.
“He surrounded himself with the best possible staff he could find,” said his son Brad. “That made his job much easier.”
His sons, Brad and Greg, were Jefferson students when their father was principal. Despite occasional awkward moments, “in a school that big, you blended in,” Brad said.
Mr. Knauss led by example and was tough when he needed to be, “but he treated people like he wanted to be treated,” his son Brad said. “He liked being involved in shaping kids’ lives and having a positive influence.”
His son Greg said: “He was the best father anybody could ever have.”
He was born June 2, 1936, to Bernice and Raymond Knauss. The school district where he’d been a student from age 10 on was his only employer. He taught at Washington Junior High from 1958 to 1962, and from 1962 to 1964 he was a social studies teacher at Whitmer. He was appointed assistant principal of Jefferson Junior High in 1964. He was an assistant coach from 1960 to 1965.
He was inducted into the Whitmer Hall of Fame in 1997, and the honor encompassed his careers as student-athlete and educator.
He played center on Whitmer’s varsity basketball team and posted 39 points in his highest-scoring game, said his wife — and high school sweetheart. He was named to the Great Northern Conference first team and the all-tournament sectional team in consecutive seasons. He also played end on Whitmer’s varsity football team and was named to the conference first team. He ran track his senior year.
He attended the University of Toledo on a basketball scholarship. Becoming an educator “was always his goal. He loved working with children,” his wife said.
He received a bachelor’s degree in education in 1958 and a master’s degree in 1964. He was in the Coast Guard Reserve for eight years.
Driving and camping vacations were family vacation staples, and the Knausses spent 40 summers at the Lake Ottawa campground near Iron River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The family traveled widely with their camper and, on the way, at least drove through every state except Hawaii.
Surviving are his wife, Patricia Knauss, whom he married Aug. 17, 1957; sons, Brad and Greg Knauss, and five granddaughters.
Services will be at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Chapel of Peace at Toledo Memorial Park, where family and friends will gather after 3 p.m. Arrangements are by the Ansberg-West Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to Lutheran Church of Our Savior, where he was a charter member.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.
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