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JOSEPH LEONARD KNEE
Oct. 6, 1946 - July 21, 2022
Joseph Leonard, our dear brother, uncle, cousin, and friend passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on July 21, 2022. His loss is a heartbreak. His remembrance, however, is a celebration of a good life.
Joseph was born in Brooklyn to parents, Jeanette and Sidney Knee. Jeanette was the oldest of four siblings; Sidney was the second of four brothers. Joseph was named for his paternal grandfather, Joseph Knee, who emigrated from Austria in the early 1900’s and for his uncle, Leonard (“Louie”), Sidney’s younger brother, who was killed at the end of WWII when, as bombardier over Japan, his plane crashed on its way home.
Joe’s mom, Jeanette, was a homemaker and part-time bookkeeper. Dad, Sidney, had been a professional basketball player and court stenographer prior to WWII. After serving in the army in England and France during the war, Dad continued on in career employment as a civilian auditor for the U.S. Army. Mom passed away in 1987 at age 70, having been ill for many years.
Dad passed away in 2004 at age 91. He had been ever the athlete and Joe and Dad shared a close bond and the enjoyment of sports together, especially tennis and golf, for decades.
Joe attended P.S. 217, Ditmas J.H.S., and Midwood H.S. in Brooklyn until dad’s job took the family first to Yokohama, Japan, when Joe was eleven, in what was then, still American “Occupied” Japan. Later, the family would move to France and Germany. Joe’s schooling was, therefore, multiply interrupted, but was, nevertheless, a pivotal and wonderful part of his life.
The family’s move to Verdun, France, when Joe was fifteen and, later, to Orleans, had a profound impact on the whole family - especially Joe. His love of history began in that small northeast corner of France where, right next to the family’s small apartment building at the end of a single lane road across from a farm with mooing cows, was a warning sign in French which read, “CAUTION! You are prohibited from digging in this area. There may still be unexploded ordinance buried here from WWI.” There was, as yet no TV or phone service whatsoever in the area, and it would be several months before the family would even have a car, so Joe got used to walking or running anywhere he wanted or needed to go, other than school. As a result, and to everyone’s delight, Joe made the track team during that, his junior year in high school! Clearly, in 1962, the family had landed somewhere really far from Brooklyn!
The following year, the family moved to Orleans, approximately an hour and a half south of Paris. Joe loved Orleans and in 1964, he graduated from Orleans American High School where he had developed not only several lifelong friendships, but his strongest and fondest memories. This truly beautiful cosmopolitan city, which Joan of Arc had saved from the English in 1429, had now also captured Joe’s heart.
Joe attended the University of Maryland extension in Munich for two years, as the family was now residing in Germany. He subsequently transferred to the college’s main campus in College Park, Maryland, where he met his future wife, Rochelle Snee. Joe shared some harrowing stories about protesting the war in Vietnam, still raging at the time. He graduated in 1968 with an undergraduate degree in Asian History.
Joe and Rochelle married in 1977, and while embarking on their respective careers, they spent many of those early years together, traveling through Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Rochelle became a professor of Classics, Greek and Latin. Joe completed a graduate degree in Public Administration and Finance at the University of Washington in Seattle where the two finally settled. Joe worked for decades in an administrative/finance capacity for the City of Seattle and spent many of those same years actively involved in Democratic politics. Joe was a hard-core Democrat and maintained friendships with his like-minded political and work buddies until the end.
Joe loved the Pacific Northwest. He cultivated a beautiful garden at their home in Burien. He was especially proud of his palm and kiwi trees. The spectacular view of Mt. Rainier and South Puget Sound from their home gave Joe and Rochelle many years of pleasure. Inside, Joe’s great “green thumb” was always at work developing beautiful plants, some of epic size.
While Joe was, in fact, a longtime Washingtonian, he was, nevertheless, never far from his roots. He was always the Jewish kid from Brooklyn who craved a really good bagel, an authentic New York pastrami sandwich or a genuine knish from Coney Island. Joe wasn’t religious, but always ended phone conversations, short or long, with his sister, Alice, with the Yiddish expression, “Sei Gesund!” (Go in Health).
Rochelle passed away in Sept. 2020. Joe suffered a bout with Covid and slowly declined in health. He was, however, wont to enjoy a good meal with good friends. He cherished the knick-knacks and paintings he and Rochelle had collected over the years and, took contentment in his library’s worth of history books he would knowingly never read, but from which he also could never part. Toward the end, Joe watched classic movies and mysteries, sitting in his favorite Adirondack chair, always recommending the foreign ones he knew Alice would appreciate. He delighted in fixing up the house he intended to age in. The Mediterranean wall colors made him happy.
Joe had a more than wonderful sense of humor. He had a most generous heart and delighted in story-telling and always giving gifts with meaning. His generosity, to all who knew him, was only matched in magnitude by his trademark ubiquitous over-sized hats. Joe will be terribly missed by all who knew and loved him.
Joe’s dear friend, Cassidy Summer, has been increasingly and unceasingly helpful to and supportive of Joe during what was to be his final few years and, for that, his family is ever grateful.
Joe is survived by his sister, Alice Miller and her husband, Fredric Miller, and his niece, Melissa Miller and nephew, Jonathan Miller, as well as by twelve cousins.
Joe’s ashes will be laid to rest beside the Loire River in Orleans, France.
Donations, should you wish to honor Joe’s life: World Central Kitchen or Greenpeace
Condolences to: Alice Miller
2040 Winding Brook Way
Scotch Plains, New Jersey 07076
Share memories, photos & condolences of Joe on the Tribute Wall, located above.
Arrangements by Emmick Family Funeral Home - Seattle, Washington