At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Robert E. Knoll Memorial Scholarship Fund
1138 136th Ave.
Holland, MI 49424
c/o West Ottawa High School
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Bernard Knoll it is easy to see that he was a man of integrity in everything he did. He valiantly served his country during WWII and was a hero in the eyes of not only his country, but also his family. Bernie was a successful entrepreneur who leaves behind traces of himself within the Holland community that remain to this day. Although he loved soaring on the horizon with the endless blue sky as his constant companion, Bernie will be long remembered for his intelligence coupled with his determination to succeed that continues to inspire those privileged to know and love such a remarkable man.
During a year in which Professor Albert Einstein introduced “time” as the fourth dimension and the first radio broadcast of the World Series saturated airwaves, America was rapidly reaching new heights. Business was booming in our nation during 1921 as consumers were enjoying the prosperity of a peacetime economy. This was also an exciting year for Harm and Jenneke (Riphagen) Knoll, of Holland, Michigan as they were filled with joy beyond measure to announce the birth of their son, Bernard, on August 12th. Bernie, as he was often called, was raised in Holland as one of nine children in his family and worked on his father’s poultry farm, Tulip City Duck Farm. When he was just 13, Bernie caught the “flying bug” and his life would never be the same. His father gave him 50 cents to take an airplane ride and with that flight, Bernie’s lifelong passion for flying had begun.
On December 8, 1941, America declared a state of war in response to the vicious attack on Pearl Harbor just the day before. Bernie enlisted in the Army Air Corps the next year when he turned 21. He was trained to fly “the best airplane in WWII,” the P-47 Thunderbolt and flew a total of 104 missions over Europe as part of the European Theatre. Bernie’s time of service was recognized by the numerous medals he was awarded including the Distinguished Flying Cross. This medal is awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” Bernie left the service having earned the rank of Captain.
In spite of Bernie’s formal education being limited to the 10th grade, he graduated from Aviation Cadet School among his “more educated peers.” He in fact was the only cadet in his class without at least a high school diploma, and many of his peers were college graduates as well.
After the war, Bernie’s parents threw him a homecoming party after his return. In attendance that evening was the young girl with whom he would share a love story for over 63 years. Her name was Lois Plaggemars and from that night on, Bernie began his quest for her heart – and he succeeded. The couple eloped to South Bend, Indiana and was married in 1946. It was also during this time that Bernie’s love of flying led him into a partnership with Grad Geurink. Together the pair started what is now Tulip City Airport where Bernie was a flight instructor. Bernie and Lois were soon blessed with the birth of their son, Bob, in 1947. The Knoll family then moved to Owosso where he opened a war surplus store. They remained in Owosso for the following 14 years where they also welcomed daughters Jennifer, Margie, and Valerie.
The Knoll family enjoyed living life together in a variety of ways. They treasured spending numerous summers camping on various lakes throughout Michigan as a young family. Bernie would work during the week and rejoin his family at the lake on the weekends. They moved back to Holland in 1962 where they settled into a house on Home Avenue where Bernie and Lois have lived ever since. A bit later, Bernie and Lois along with their daughter Valerie started Holland House Candles, a business that is still thriving to this day. Bernie also owned and operated two Laundromats in order to support his family.
In addition to time he spent with his family and running his businesses, Bernie made time to pursue some of his passions. He enjoyed building and flying radio controlled airplanes and spent many evenings at Park Township Airport flying (and crashing) his handcrafted beauties. Bernie and Lois were lifelong camping and traveling enthusiasts who enjoyed seeing the country and visiting their many friends while traveling in the various trailers and motor homes they had owned over the years.
After semi-retiring in 1980, Bernie and Lois continued to embrace life each day. They settled into their first mobile home in Port Charlotte, Florida for the winters and had continued to enjoy their winters there ever since. Their relaxing days were spent fishing and motoring down the Peace River in their aluminum fishing boat, and bicycling with their friends in their “biker gang.” Then when he was 75, Bernie surprised everyone and recertified his pilot’s license. He did this secretly since he was unsure whether he would pass his physical, but pass he did. It was his greatest desire to take his family, especially his grandchildren, up for one last flight.
Although his passion was for the skies, Bernard Knoll left his mark on the world in which he lived. He didn’t receive a formal education as extensive as many of his peers, yet he went on to graduate among them. Bernie was an entrepreneur who owned several successful businesses throughout his life, but it was his quiet strength for which he was well known. He taught others so much about courage, strength, and perseverance – lessons that will live on in the hearts and lives of those he leaves behind. Bernie will be dearly missed.
Bernard Knoll of Holland and Port Charlotte, Florida, died Friday, October 23, 2009, at his home in Holland. Bernie’s family includes his wife of 63 years, Lois Knoll; children, Dr. Jennifer Knol, of Holland, Margie (Calvin) VanTatenhove, of Zeeland, and Valerie (William) Nichols, of Holland; grandchildren, Carrie VanTatenhove, Bret Vandenbil, Amanda (Dan) Martinez, Lisa (Beth) Hill, and Jeremy (Becca) VanTatenhove; great grandchildren, Tucker, Tally, and Tia Martinez, and Emersyn Hill; sister, Shirley Steketee; in-laws, Gordon (Viv) Plaggemars, Fern (Jack) Klaasen, Jim (Cork) Dykema, and Ed (Marlene) Plaggemars; nieces and nephews. Preceding him in death was a son, Robert E. Knoll, who was killed in Vietnam in 1968 while serving his country; siblings Wilhelmina Hanson, Raymond Knoll, Johanna Roerink, Josephine McCourt, Margie Kolean, Joe Knoll, Phyllis Kuna and sister-in-law Shirley Dykema. Funeral services are scheduled for Monday October 26, 1:00 p.m. at Dykstra Life Story Funeral Homes – Northwood Chapel, MI, 295 Douglas Ave. Burial will be in Pilgrim Home Cemetery. Visitation is scheduled for Monday, from 12 noon until the time of the service at the funeral home. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a favorite memory or make a memorial donation to the Robert E. Knoll Memorial Scholarship Fund, C/O West Ottawa High School, 1138 136th Ave. Holland, MI 49424.