Friday, January 25, 2013

Celebrating GDB’s Oldest Working Graduate: Don Knight

By Emily Simone
GDB Graduate Field Representative

Emily Simone with Don Knight and his guide dog

I am writing this memorial in celebration of an amazing GDB graduate, Donald Frederick Knight, age 100, who passed away on Jan. 19, 2013.  He was born in 1912.  When I met Don, he was living in Boulder, Colo., in a high-rise apartment that overlooks the University of Colorado campus His 10th story apartment has the best view of the famous Flatiron Mountain Range in the entire city…no kidding! People might pay millions for this view. Don lived alone and remained sharp as a tack and completely independent up until just one month before his passing. He was a remarkable man in so many ways and is officially the oldest active GDB graduate we’ve ever had.

Don first came to GDB in 1993 at the youthful age of 81 and trained with Marin a stunningly beautiful golden retriever male who had a wonderful, ‘old soul’. They were inseparable for 12 years and had a bond that went beyond anything I have seen in my many years at GDB. Marin was devoted to Don, and Don would have jumped off a cliff for his beloved Marin. Marin succumbed to aggressive cancer in early 2005 and this ended friendship was devastating to all involved… From the local vets, to GDB’s vet staff and the AGS grief counselor, we all wept copiously for Don and his lost Marin.

Don’s next soul mate was Sachi, a spunky little female yellow lab, with whom he graduated in June of 2005 at the amazing age of 94! Don worked with Sachi until summer 2012. Sadly Sachi passed away suddenly from aggressive cancer. Don was devastated to lose his constant companion.

Don loved GDB and over the years, he and I developed a warm relationship. He looked forward to my visits and I tried to visit him whenever I was in Colorado. One of my fondest memories was a time when I arrived for a visit and he had set up TV trays in his living room and served me a lovely take-out Chinese lunch, served on his deceased wife’s best bone china dish ware. It was so very sweet and touching.

Don lived through two world wars and witnessed the invention of cars, television and guide dogs as a mobility aid. He spoke frequently and lovingly of his lost wife and son.

On my last visit with Don, this last October, I took him to his favorite restaurant ‘The Buff’ in downtown Boulder. I asked him what his secret was for living to the age of 100 and still being so independent and sharp. He was humble and couldn’t offer any miracle for discovering the key to eternal youth. He did tell me that sharing his life with his guide dogs gave him a reason to live and thrive….Isn’t that what our mission is all about????

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