Village People: Edie Knell, surviving life’s challenges
A first-generation American, Edie Knell has stories. Edie’s mom (Denmark) immigrated here with her parents in 1924, age 13. Her dad (Germany) finished third grade, became an apprentice carpenter by 11, left a home of eight brothers (all of whom later died at the Russian Front) and two sisters, joined the Danish merchant marines, jumping ship in Canada in 1932, age 19, embarking on a life in America.
Born in Manhattan, Edie spoke only German until public school. Her parents opened a deli there, living in the apartment above. Selling the deli and moving the family to Long Island, they opened a restaurant.
Edie attended an Episcopalian parochial school an hour away and graduated second in her class (of 19). For perspective, the No. 1 student became a Harvard professor. Edie smiles as she says she studied Latin and French, “Which I have never used.”
While attending American University in Washington D.C., with a love for law and politics and wanting to experience something new, she borrowed a friend’s press pass and sat in the Senate chambers during Robert Kennedy’s interviews for Attorney General. After a year of working herself into pneumonia, Edie returned home, attended Hofstra Univ. and married the boy next door. Three sons came within 26 months of each other.
Edie supported her husband through his schooling but shortly after, he left for Mexico, leaving her with boys 5, 6, and 7. She worked, took care of her sons, accepted food stamps for two years and went to night school. “The divorce was so unexpected, I had to get my bearings.” Edie was part of the first wave of female sales reps for Xerox. She excelled, in spite of being given some of the worst territory and ineffective salespeople. Numerous promotions required numerous moves. Later, getting into telecom, she oversaw the sales force for six western states and married a co-worker, Art Knell.
In 1990, they moved to the Village and opened Main Street Eatery in the new Outlet Mall. When they sold it, Art became the executive director of the assisted care facility at Sedona Winds. Edie went back to teaching school, overseeing her school’s federal programs while teaching the gifted and Title 1. Meanwhile, Edie’s mother, suffering from Alzheimer’s, came to live with them and became her primary caregivers until her death.
It was caring for Edie’s mother that helped them both realize their love for seniors. They opened Eden House, an adult day care, which became their passion. Art was the executive director and Edie helped out while still teaching school. After six years, due to health issues, Art was forced to close Eden House and Edie became his full-time caregiver.
Art passed in mid-August this year, leaving Edie shocked, vulnerable and out-of-sync. But she says she’ll make it, “Those who grew up before, in another time, lived a very different life than young people today. We learned how to adapt and you do what is needed to move on.” That and her relationship with God gets Edie Knell through each day.
Jim Cunningham, Jr. is a pastor, husband, father, lover of people, friend, neighbor, counselor, teacher, book collector, and jack-of-all-trades. Meet him here each month to become acquainted with yet another Village resident.