John Leo Knott

East Baltimore native and World War II veteran built remodeling business and was noted for charitable work

February 26, 2010|By Jacques Kelly

John Leo Knott, the retired owner of a remodeling business and a benefactor to a home for the aged, died of heart failure Feb. 19 at Gilchrist Hospice Care. The former Guilford resident was 94.

Born in East Baltimore, he was the second-youngest of the six sons of Henry Aden and Martha Doyle Knott.

He attended Cathedral School and was a 1934 graduate of Loyola High School, where he ran track.

Family members said he practiced by walking to Clifton Park and running on its grounds.

The family later lived in Ten Hills.

Early jobs included serving as the circulation manager's secretary at the old Baltimore News-Post & Sunday American on Pratt Street.

He attended the Maryland Institute of Accounting and Finance, now the University of Baltimore, where he earned an accounting degree. He also completed architectural drawing courses at Maryland Institute.

In 1937, he became the credit manager for J.H. Filbert Inc.

During World War II, Mr. Knott served in both the Army and Navy. He was a naval storekeeper in the finance office for the Pacific Naval Air Command in Pearl Harbor from 1944 to 1946. Family members said he flew to Pacific islands to distribute a cash payroll every two weeks to sailors.

In 1946, Mr. Knott joined his father's construction firm, the Henry A. Knott Co., where he was supervisor of heavy construction activities and senior vice president.

In 1953, he established the Henry A. Knott Remodeling Co. as a separate division and built it into a successful historical renovation and remodeling business. He helped restore the State House and the governor's mansion in Annapolis.

In 1960, Gov. Millard Tawes asked him to help draft a new law to protect consumers that led to the creation of the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. He strongly supported a law to control unethical contractor practices in the remodeling of homes, family members said.

When the Home Improvement Commission of Maryland was founded, Mr. Knott served on it for 20 years. He also served on the Better Business Bureau's board for more than 25 years.

For 35 years, Mr. Knott assisted priests who said daily Mass at the Loyola College chapel. He was also a founding parishioner of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and oversaw its maintenance.

Over the years, Mr. Knott and his brothers made numerous gifts to charity and philanthropic causes.

As a boy growing up in East Baltimore, he became familiar with the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which ran a retirement home where an uncle lived at Valley and Preston streets.

Years later, the sisters who ran the home told Mr. Knott that their 19th-century building was worn out.

Through a men's advisory board, he donated to and oversaw construction of a new St. Martin's Home on Maiden Choice Lane in Catonsville in 1969.

"He inherited the role of grand patriarch of the entire Knott clan," said the Rev. William Watters, who spoke at his funeral Wednesday. "John possessed an equally keen awareness of his responsibilities to the civic community ... dedicating his time, money and advice to charitable programs on behalf of the needy, especially the work of his cherished Little Sisters of the Poor."

In 1950, Mr. Knott, his brother, Charles A. Knott, and six other contractors, created the Associated Builders and Contractors. Mr. Knott served as president in 1960.

Mr. Knott was a founding director of National City Bank, later the Suburban Bank.

He also served as a member of the board of directors of Clifton Trust Bank, Colonial Savings & Loan and Security Savings and Loan Association.

Mr. Knott was a lifelong golfer and member of the Baltimore Country Club. He was a founder of the Golfer's Charitable Association, the sponsor of LPGA golf tournaments in Baltimore.

His wife of 68 years, Ann Bowers Reed, died last year.

Survivors include three sons, John Knott of Charleston, S.C., Frank Knott of Baltimore and Michael Knott of York, S.C.; six daughters, Annmarie Lerch of Baltimore, Mary Mart Balko of Baltimore, Jane Henderson of Shillington, Pa., Betty Bates of Springfield, Mo., Terese Kelly of Burlington, Mass., and Rosemary Haynes of Baltimore; 22 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.

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