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June 28, 1934 – September 1, 2016 Knowles Dougherty Remembered

A Love Letter BY ROBERT ALBEE

I doubt that many Alley readers have been actually invited to a funeral or a memorial by the deceased… That’s kind of what happened to many of us, who attended a huge September 17th gathering to honor and remember Knowles Dougherty at the Guild Hall of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis. He wrote: “This happening will take place whether I am able to make it or not.” (He passed two weeks before on September 1st.)What an honor and joy it has been to share the same neighborhood street— just a block down from Knowles Dougherty! At age 82, he planned a Thanks To You party to invite all those he had known and even grown up with, to one-last-shindig!

We were greeted with a wide range of musical offerings ranging from Sara Olsen’s taiko drumming, to choral numbers by duets, quartets, and sextets— all accompanied by “heavy hors d’oeuvres”. And then, we were offered gifts including many books Knowles published about cross-country and running, as well as neatly-tied stacks of Provoking Thoughts, his periodical magazine “devoted to the thinker in all of us,” for which he had served as editor some years past.

This was a guy who grew up in Austin from a family connected to Hormel and showed great skills in both track and field and the glee club at Austin High. Some years before the Peace Corps was even invented, Knowles served in Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador with the American Friends Service Committee after graduating from Swarthmore College. He got a Master’s in Math from UW-Madison and a Doctorate of Education from Harvard, but most knew him simply as a man of many ideas and one constantly on the move to make the world better. Little did many of us know that he promoted a “farmers market” back in 1977 and he founded the Warehouse Cooperative School an alternative K-12 (serving special-needs kids) in Boston after finishing school at Harvard.

I first met Knowles as he went up and down our street by his apartment building picking up litter that constantly blows in from the shopping center across the street. (He would do the same as he walked down Franklin to his church on Sundays). We became good friends and occasionally accompany Knowles and his newly re-married wife (Veryl Andre) for an evening of movies and dinner. We all shared a great Turkey travel experience where Veryl’s son worked annually on an archeological “dig” —and we, a small group tour with extended family members. This love of Turkey led us to the wonderful Black Sea Restaurant in St. Paul to enjoy great Mediterranean cuisine!

Years later, I interviewed his Latino tenants in his five unit building for a neighborhood study and it was clear that they all thought Knowles was the best landlord in the world. In fact he spent the last year finishing up many building improvements that made life better for his tenants. He participated in the Franklin Area Business Association and held a periodic discussion forum at the Franklin Branch Library to pursue alternative ideas in education and learning. He always though of others!

We are grateful that his daughter, Elizabeth Kelly, will be continuing to manage his rental property in Ventura Village! Veryl Adre will be soon moving into a more physically-accessible apartment in a nearby neighborhood. We all will miss her great charm and intellect! Our neighborhood will now be dropping quite a few points in IQ with Knowles and Veryl’s absence.

A Love Letter by Robert Albee

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