Serving West Michigan Since 1899

David J. Knoll

May 25, 1943 - October 10, 2020
Holland, MI


Life Story / Obituary


David Joel Knoll, 77, beloved husband of Gerlinde Knoll for 49 years, passed away on Saturday, October 10, 2020 surrounded by family and loved ones at home in Holland, Michigan. He battled Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS) for over a decade.

David was born in Harvey, Illinois to Joe and Alice (Betty) Knoll in 1943, shortly before the family moved to Holland. He is survived by his siblings Marlene (Mickey) Morgan, Dale Knoll, and Brad Knoll with whom he shared his earliest childhood adventures. David graduated from Michigan State University in 1965, but not before developing a passion for MSU football. He earned his Doctoral degree in Jurisprudence from The University of Texas at Austin and subsequently returned to Michigan to practice law with partners who also became life-long friends.

The luckiest moment of his life happened when he was set up on a blind date with a beautiful young woman visiting from Germany, Gerlinde Ehlers, who became his wife and whom he loved deeply for the rest of his days. Together they raised two daughters, Jessica and Emily, whose status of being his favorites only changed when his grandsons Oliver, Henry, Elliot and Lucas were added to the family. David was first and foremost a devoted and loving husband to Gerlinde, whom he jokingly referred to as his “first wife,” an amazing father to his daughters who called him “Mr. Wonderful” (his idea), and Opa to his grandsons who knew without a doubt the correct answer to his recurrent question, “who loves you?” He will be sorely missed by his wife, Gerlinde, his daughter Jessica Knoll, his daughter Emily McRitchie and her husband Matthew McRitchie, his grandsons, the rest of his extended family and so many loved friends.

David was a highly respected attorney in his field, well known for his integrity and ethics. He started his career practicing general law, transitioning next to criminal and public defense, later working as an assistant prosecutor for Ottawa County, where he retired. However, for him, earning the coveted AV rating was the highlight of his career. Knowing that the colleagues he held in such high esteem recognized him in that manner meant the world to David. David was not only an extremely successful trial attorney, he was a legal educator passing on his knowledge to students of criminal justice and active members of law enforcement throughout Ottawa County. David may have been at his best as an early proponent of computer-based programming, developed by him, to help keep members of local police, sheriff and prosecuting attorneys up-to-date with changes in criminal justice in a coordinated fashion. He had a rare talent for maximizing his legal knowledge, ability to teach, and IT skills to the benefit of our community.

David enjoyed more activities, hobbies and interests than most are able to fit into three lifetimes. He was an instrument-rated pilot, an extra-class licensed ham radio operator, a graduate of The University of the South School of Theology EFM program, a member of Big Charlie’s Racing Team cycling group, and talked finance (but mostly socialized) with the Salty Dog Investment Club. David never stopped learning; he took guitar and drum lessons, as well as teaching himself Spanish and German. He also was a natural teacher of others, whether it was introducing chess to grandsons or working as an Adjunct Professor at Grand Rapids Community College after he “retired.” Ever curious and always up for an adventure, David loved sailing with his brothers and friends, traveled cross-country on motorcycles, and saw half the world with Gerlinde by train, plane and lots of cruise ships (arguably his favorite mode because he could have dessert at every meal). After a life-time of hiking, paddling, golfing, biking, sports, and enjoying a very active life, it was hard to watch David be robbed little by little of his mobility over the last decade due to PLS. David always remained positive and mentally strong in spite of this. His enduring optimism was an inspiration to all who knew him.

A celebration of David’s life is planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Hospice of Holland.