Dr. J. Walter Knapp of Edgartown died on Wednesday, August 22, at the age of 96.
Dr. Knapp was born in Rochester, New York, on March 3, 1916. He received his BA from Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. He then received his MD from the University of Buffalo in 1944. He interned at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.
Walter then enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After just three weeks of training he was sent overseas as an enlisted doctor to serve his country in WW II. Walter was involved in the Blitz of England, and the D Day (June 6, 1944) landing on Utah Beach on LST 382. He remained in France, participating in the Invasion of Normandy. His service in the Navy kept him overseas for almost two years — in France, Denmark and Germany. He and another doctor spent an afternoon at the palace of King Christian of Denmark in thanks for helping to keep Denmark a free country. Meeting the king and enjoying the day with him was an event he would never forget.
Shortly after returning to the U.S., Walter married Ruth Tremaine in 1946. Ruth was a nurse he had worked with at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. She had grown up in Canandaigua, N.Y. Walter and Ruth were married for more than 26 years and had eight children. Ruth died suddenly in 1973.
In 1979, Walter married Jean (Murphy) Clancy of Caledonia, N.Y. He and Jean moved to Martha’s Vineyard upon his retirement in 1982. Jean had previously been married to Dr. Francis Clancy who had passed away. Jean and Fran had five children of their own. Walter and Jean were married for 27 years, until her death in 2007.
Dr. Knapp was not only known as a caring and exceptional doctor, but as a man who would step up and serve his country or his community. While living in the Rochester area Dr. Knapp had a very successful medical practice. What began as a Family Practice developed into an Occupational Medicine Practice. Dr. Knapp was a past member of the American Occupational Physicians Association, the American Medical Association, the New York State Medical Society, and the Monroe County Medical Society.
Walter pursued his passion for flying by obtaining his private pilot’s license in 1966 at the age of 50. He then joined the FAA and became an active member serving as a medical examiner for pilot certification. He was also a past President of the FPA (Flying Physicians Assoc.). He worked as a medical examiner in both the Rochester area and on Martha’s Vineyard (Dukes County) until he retired from this post in 1999. In serving children in need, he conducted many Angel Flight missions before he gave up his pilot’s license.
On Martha’s Vineyard, Walter became active in real estate, the Vineyard Gazette newspaper, and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He was a founding member of Martha’s Vineyard Hospice and remained on the Board of Directors until the age of 90. He was also an active member of the Cape Cod Veterans Association. He would attend the D Day brunch hosted annually on June 6th by a French couple who became very close friends of his. They had experienced D Day as children living in France. They wanted to honor these veterans each year on D Day.
Dr. Knapp also served as a Eucharistic Minister at Good Shepherd Parish on Martha’s Vineyard for more than 25 years. On the Vineyard many people knew him as the “Clock Doc” since he repaired and restored antique clocks. He meticulously cleaned and conditioned the clocks, always at no cost. He always said, “A good cup of coffee is enough thanks.” Watercolor painting was another passion he pursued after retirement until the age of 95.
One of the best days of his life was the experience of partaking in an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., as a WWII veteran. His son accompanied him on October 24, 2010.
Dr. Knapp was predeceased by his wife Ruth and his wife Jean Clancy. He will also join his children: Mary Elizabeth Knapp, James Knapp, Suzanne Knapp Dreher, Jean’s daughter, Maureen Clancy Bernard, granddaughter, Phoebe Jones Foster, and his sister, Geraldine Knapp Mogenhan.
Dr. Knapp is survived by his brother, Eugene Knapp, and his wife, Madeline (Matsie). He leaves his children: Martha (Markie) Knapp Robinson (Jim), Margaret (Peg) Knapp Wadecki (Steve), Ruth Knapp Hastings (Larry), Kathryn (Kitty) Knapp White (Tim), his son-in-law Paul Dreher and his son, Bernard (BJ) Knapp. Also surviving are Jean’s children: son-in-law Joseph Bernard, son Tim Clancy (Cathy), son Emmett Clancy (Antoinette), son Kevin Clancy and daughter Kathleen (Kate) Clancy Vetter (Tim). He is also survived by 30 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren.
Walter was a friend to so many people on Martha’s Vineyard. His intelligence and sense of humor were treasured. His interest in aviation, military, history, trains, the stock market, politics, clocks, the future of Martha’s Vineyard, nature and so many more topics was endless. In a conversation with him you always walked away having learned something new.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Diabetes Association or to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. A memorial mass will be said in Dr. J. Walter Knapp’s memory on Martha’s Vineyard at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Oak Bluffs on Sunday, October 28, at 9:30 am.