Thomas A. Knapke, 76, died on October 4, 2018, at his home in St. Marys. Tom was born on October 23, 1941, in Coldwater, Ohio, to the late Adolph and Frances (Jutte) Knapke. On July 4, 1964, he married the love of his life, Ann (Schenking) Knapke, who preceded him in death June 16, 2013.
Tom enjoyed a busy career but he loved to be with his family. He is survived by his beloved children, Gregg (Deborah) Knapke, St. Paris, Ohio, and Beth (Thomas J.) Westgerdes, Fort Recovery, Ohio; his grandchildren Todd Baker, St. Paris, Amber (Matt) Beavers, Springboro, Ohio, Dylan and Anabella Westgerdes, Fort Recovery, and his great-grandchild Blakely Beavers, Springboro. Tom is also survived by brothers, Mike (Teri) Knapke, Englewood, Ohio, Larry (Carol) Knapke, Littleton Colo., Gary (Jackie) Knapke, Coldwater, Ohio, Leon Knapke, Aurora, Colo.. and sisters, Janice Gruebmeyer, Gilbert, Ariz., Joyce (Kraig) Klosterman, Coldwater, Ohio, Bev (Lon) Frye, Georgetown, Texas, and Nancy (Mark) Poeppelman, Dublin, Ohio. He later met his loving companion, Kathy Miller, Celina, Ohio, who also survives.
Tom received his B.A. from the University of Dayton. He taught and coached at Marion Local Schools and earned his M.B.A. at Ball State in 1968. Tom was athletic director and principal at Marion Local and became superintendent of Minster schools and then Parkway Schools. He earned his Ph.D. in Education Administration from Bowling Green University in 1981.
Tom was a firm believer in higher education and lifelong learning. He served in various functions at the Western Ohio Branch Campus of Wright State University starting in 1977. He was dean from 1979 to 1983. He taught business classes while also serving as director of the Small Business Enterprise Center (SBDC) from 1983 to 2001. In 1995, Tom became M.B.A. advisor and interim assistant dean as well as assistant dean for development until his retirement in 2006. He was a lifetime member of the Western Ohio Educational Foundation and served on its Executive Committee. Tom was chair of the Capital Campaign Committee that spearheaded fundraising to renovate the Lake Campus in 2007 as well as the driving force to create the first Lake Campus student residential unit in 2010.
Tom was also tremendous force for leading positive change in our local communities. He was especially committed to ensuring future generations the opportunity to enjoy our natural resources. He was positive that Grand Lake would become a beacon of hope to find real solutions to improve all inland water quality. He helped establish the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission (GLRC) in 2010 and served as the first facilitator. He served as GLRC member and the GLRC State Director's Committee from 2010 to present. In 2016, he resumed the post of the GLRC facilitator.
Tom served on many boards and committees at national, regional and local levels. He loved to teach and felt it was his responsibility to lend his expertise to students, to the school he loved, and to other causes important to him. He was board member of WSU President's Club, the Stanley Allen Society, Dayton, the Arts Place in Portland, Ind., Lake Development Corporation Executive Board, and on Economic Development Loan Review Board in Mercer County. He chaired three fund drives to establish and improve the Auglaize/Mercer YMCA.
Tom was a proud supporter of the University of Dayton Flyers and enjoyed basketball tournament trips with the Flyer Fanatics. He loved traveling with his group of lifelong friends and taking his grandchildren to Cincinnati Reds ballgames.
Memorials can be made to the Thomas A. and Ann K. Knapke Art Fund through the Mercer County Civic Foundation or the Thomas A. and Ann K. Knapke Scholarship through the Western Ohio Educational Foundation at Wright State University Lake Campus.