Milton John Henry Knabusch; 1920-2014: Business owner, politician fought to keep I-75 free


MONROE — Milton John Henry Knabusch, the longtime owner of an insurance agency who was a former Monroe mayor, chairman of the county board, and state representative, died April 1 in Regency Hospital, Sylvania. He was 93.

He had pneumonia and developed sepsis, his daughter Joanne said.

Mr. Knabusch opted against an active role in La-Z-Boy Inc., the furniture company his uncle Edward Knabusch co-founded, although as a shareholder he was quoted in news accounts when he asked the occasional question at annual meetings. He retired from his Milt Knabusch and Associates in the late 1980s and sold the insurance business, his daughter said.

“Last fall he was at his summer home in Lewiston, Michigan, and still on his riding lawnmower,” his daughter said. “This man had an active mind and was still with it and still working in the community. He wasn’t a typical 93-year-old.”

Nor was he a typical 35-year-old. He was Monroe’s youngest mayor in 40 years when he was elected to that office in 1955 after a two-year term as a city commissioner. In 1956, he was named one of Michigan’s five outstanding young men.

He was one of the youngest chairmen of Monroe County Board of Supervisors when he was elected to that post in 1957, and he was the first person to head city and county governments at the same time, Blade reporter Ralph Stone Smith wrote then.

Richard Sieb, who was a city commissioner and, in the late 1960s, mayor of Monroe, credited Mr. Knabusch with successfully resisting efforts to make the interstate highway through Monroe as a toll road.

“There was unbelievable pressure,” Mr. Sieb said. “That was one of the achievements of Milt. It would not be a toll road. Consequently, I-75 is a freeway.”

Mr. Knabusch was defeated when he ran for a third term as mayor and, afterward, worked to build up the Monroe County Republican Party as its chairman. He was elected state representative in 1962, but was defeated two years later, despite strong endorsements from then-Gov. George Romney.

He was a former chairman of the Monroe County Polio Foundation and was active in the March of Dimes. He was a past president of the Monroe JayCees and a past vice president of the Michigan JayCees. He was a trustee of the Monroe Hospital Association and a former director of the Monroe Kiwanis. He was among the founders of the Monroe planning commission. He served on the board of the Michigan judges’ retirement system. He was leader of the Roselawn Memorial Park board.

“He was a worker and a leader,” Mr. Sieb said. “He was into every organization.”

Mr. Knabusch organized and managed men’s baseball teams, including a La-Z-Boy team and the Monroe Orioles, and was a leader on the league and state levels.

He was born Sept. 20, 1920, in Maybee, Mich., to Mary and William Knabusch. He was a 1938 graduate of Dundee High School, where he earned letters in basketball and baseball. He was a Navy veteran of World War II and served in the South Pacific, where he was promoted to chief dispersing officer.

He was a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1138 in Monroe.

He and the former Sally Ann Rowland married Dec. 27, 1941. She died May 26, 2004. He married Donna Klippstein on Dec. 17, 2011.

Surviving are his wife, Donna; daughters, Marilynn Bisquera, Grace Lasko, and Joanne Timiney; son, Edward Knabusch; stepdaughter, Cheryl Osborn; stepson, William Klippstein; sister, Mary Ann Weyher; 8 grandchildren; 3 step-grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren, and 4 step-great-grandchildren.

Visitation is to continue 1-8 p.m. today in Rupp Funeral Home, Monroe. Services will be at noon Saturday in Trinity Lutheran Church, Monroe, where the body will be after 11 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to Trinity Lutheran, where he was a member; Roselawn Memorial Park’s restoration fund, or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182