Our beloved mother, Mary Elizabeth Knox Knight, passed away peacefully of natural causes at the age of 96 at Poydras Home. She died in the arms of her eldest daughter, who hugged her close and offered up the love and support of all six of Mom’s kids as she breathed her last and crossed the river into the arms of God.
Mom was born on May 7, 1924 in Topeka, Kansas to George and Zola Knox and came of age during the Great Depression. She was the eldest of four children, including the late James Knox, the late June Housholder Mikulka, and her surviving little sister, Marjorie Cowperthwaite. Aunt Marge often described Mom as “the dignified one” of the Knox siblings. While unsure about that appellation, we can certainly agree Mom never dreamed growing up in Topeka that she’d end up spending most of her life here in the Big Easy.
On a full scholarship, Mom received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Washburn University, then worked in the Topeka Public School System for three years. She met our Dad, the late Dr. Edward Henry Knight, then a psychiatry resident at Menninger Clinic, on a blind date at a bridge game. (They both hated to play bridge). Immediately following the wedding ceremony in Topeka in 1951, the couple traveled by train to New Orleans, where Mom discovered that the trunk containing all her worldly possessions had been stolen. Notwithstanding the initial trauma, the couple went on to raise six children, born within a span of 7 years -- Victoria McHenry (Lewis), Alan Knight (Leslee), Cynthia Knight (Lee), Carolyn Knight, and the twins, Jennifer Halphen and Jeremy Knight.
Mom was a devout Christian, a strong believer in the Golden Rule, and a member of the First Presbyterian Church on Claiborne Avenue from 1955 until the day she died. She served as the first female elder, the President of the Women of the Church, and spent decades teaching and assisting with Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and the Homeless Program. In 1975, she and other members of the Women of the Church founded a Child Development Program for children 4 and under, which served the community continuously until 2011. Aside from raising her children, Mom viewed the founding of and caring for this project as her most meaningful accomplishment.
Mom’s greatest passion was raising her six children alongside her husband, Ed. Our Dad was a brilliant and renowned psychoanalyst, but he couldn’t boil an egg. Mom served as his de facto secretary and ruled the household like a drill sergeant, ensuring that her rowdy brood was housed, fed, clothed, educated, and generally kept in line. She especially loved spending her summers at our camp in Henderson Point on the Bay of St. Louis, sitting on the pier and watching her flock swim, ski, fish, and catch crabs.
When her children grew older, Mom took a job as administrative secretary to the late Dr. Merrill Hines, then Medical Director of Ochsner Clinic. She worked there for 10 years, long enough to secure medical insurance for her and Dad, who by that time had suffered a major heart attack. Mom’s years playing with and caring for her treasured grandkids may have been her favorite. Her ten grandchildren, Victoria Smith and Marion Arant, Charles and Carol Knight, Courtney and Hannah Griggs, Anne Pateman, Henry and Nicholas Halphen, and Taylor Knight,
will never forget the time they spent with her at the Hampson Street house and the coast house (rebuilt after Hurricane Camille in 1969).
Mary lost her husband, our Dad, on Easter Sunday, the year 2000. It was a heavy blow. In 2005, and for the second time in her life, Mom lost all of her worldly possessions to Hurricane Katrina. Not long after, she decided to move to her own apartment in the Poydras Home, where she resided until her death. She loved her tenure there, finding for the first time unlimited freedom to pamper and enjoy herself. Mostly, she relished the luxury of reading all day long, and she also enjoyed her many outings and visits with her children and grandkids, her walks on the Poydras Home beautiful grounds and in Audubon Park (especially the Labyrinth), popcorn and movies at the Prytania, crossword puzzles, lunches at dives on Magazine Street, visits to the New Orleans Museum of Art, annual Mardi Gras parades, and her glass of chardonnay and Snickers bar at the end of each day. On January 19, 2019, she lovingly welcomed her first great- grandchild, “Mac” Arant.
Words cannot describe how much we will miss our Mom and we won’t attempt to do so here. Suffice it to say that we will strive to honor her memory by emulating her legacy of service and kindness, and by standing together, united as a close-knit family. We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to the entire staff of Poydras Home, from the CEO, Erin Kolb on down, and in particular to Teresa Elena Cambre, Director of Hunter House, and the extraordinary staff there, who treated our Mom with the love and care of family members, as indeed they came to be to us.
There will be a private family interment of Mom’s ashes in the Knight tomb in the Greenwood Cemetery and a Memorial Service in late May at the Greenwood Funeral Home Chapel.
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