December 1, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

SJO community mourns death of Chris Knipfer: ‘He truly had a heart of gold’

Chris Knipfer always wanted to help.

“He would do anything for anyone,” said Jason Retz, the cross-country coach at St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

Knipfer passed away on Nov. 13 at his home.

Knipfer dedicated many hours to the SJO community and was always willing to lend a hand, according to those who knew him well.

“Chris Knipfer was not only a great father and family man in our community,” SJO Superintendent Brian Brooks said, “but he was also overly generous with his time and money towards our school district.”

Brooks said Knipfer went out of his way to help students at the school in any way he could.

Chris and his wife, Karen, were recipients of the SJO Friend of Education award in the Fall of 2012. 

“The SJO community lost a great man in Chris Knipfer,” Brooks said. “Our condolences go out to his entire family as they deal with this loss.”

Knipfer’s sons, Drew and Matthew, were on the cross-country and track and field teams at SJO and Chris was dedicated to helping those programs in any way he could.

Assistant cross-country coach Terri Rein said Chris was always available to help.

“My early memories of Chris are from when the cross-country team would go to his shed for dinners, and we even did our mohawks there one year,” she said. “He was so giving.”

LoriKay Paden got to know Chris because their children ran cross country together.

“Chris Knipfer was an amazing human that constantly gave sacrificially,” she said. “He never wanted recognition or compensation.  He generously shared his time and resources to the community through a variety of outlets:  Cross Country  and Track Teams, SJO 5K, the Summer Festivals, Illinois football games, parties at the shed and on and on and on.”
Retz said the team would go over to the Knipfer’s home to bond.

“He’d have a buffet of food for them to cook and eat,” Retz said. “His specialty was make your own calzones.”

Retz said Chris would have any ingredient you could imagine and was always encouraging the younger athletes to try the type of hot sauces he had at the house.

“Without fail, someone would try it and regret it immediately,” Retz said. “We all shared laughs with him on a regular basis He truly had a heart of gold.”

Paden agreed that Chris was a person that genuinely cared for people.

“He greatly impacted our son, Justen as he spent countless hours just talking, encouraging and motivating him” she said. “Creating an atmosphere of inclusion and inspiration.  He made sure no one was ever left out and made everyone feel like family.”
Former SJO Superintendent Jim Acklin said he got to know Chris fairly well in the fall of 2012 when both of his sons ran cross-country on the SJO team Acklin coached.

Acklin said Chris always had strong opinions and wasn’t shy about sharing them.

“I agreed with him more often than not, but even when I didn’t, I always knew where he was coming from,” Acklin said.

Acklin said Chris’ support of the cross-country and track and field programs at SJO was never ending and he was always generous with his time, facilities and resources.

“He went out of his way to help make the athletes of those programs feel special” he said.

Acklin said one of his favorite memories of Chris was from the sectional cross-country meet in 2012. It was a cold and windy November day in Effingham and Chris had set up a few, large, enclosed tents with a propane header. He was also serving hot chocolate to the SJO fans and athletes.

“As I stood there sipping my hot chocolate, I just smiled at him and kind of shook my head and said, ‘This could spoil a guy,’” Acklin said. “He smiled back with that kind of mischievous grin of his and said, ‘Hey, you gotta go big or go home.’ Classic Chris.”

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