William “Bill” B. Knoble 09/23/2013


William Byrne Knoble of De Kalb, NY, and formerly of Chestertown, NY, died suddenly at the age of 67 years on September 23, 2013. For 40 years, Bill was a full-time potter and owner of Red Truck Pottery in Chestertown. During his career he served on the New York State Council of the Arts grants panel, the Town of Chester zoning board, the Chester Public Library board, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council panel, and worked with other community and arts organizations. In recent years he operated Red Truck Farm in Old De Kalb and was working toward a Bachelor of Science in Geology from St. Lawrence University. Bill held a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts (formerly Philadelphia College of the Arts) in Philadelphia, PA.
Bill was passionate about the Adirondacks. He was both a Forty-Sixer and a Winter 46er and loved to help others achieve their climbing goals. He was a telemark skier, a sailor, an orchardist, and photographer.
Bill was born in Staten Island, NY on September 24, 1945 to William Rankin Knoble and Mary Byrne Knoble. He is survived by his wife, Ellen Rocco; daughter Jessica Knoble Gray and her husband James Gray, Naomi Byrne Knoble and her partner Ann Hoang; grandchildren Sadie Elizabeth Gray and William Knoble Gray; sisters Nancy Knoble of Joseph, OR, and Katherine Knoble of Perkasie, PA; Ellen’s son Jake Rotundo, and Pierre Nzuah, who has become a son to the family.
Bill never owned a cell phone, but he had two tractors. Donations can be made to a scholarship fund being established by the St. Lawrence University Geology Department in Bill’s honor; to North Country Public Radio; or to Bat Conservation International.
An occasion to remember and celebrate Bill’s life will be held on Friday, September 27, 2013, at 3:30pm – 5pm at the First Presbyterian Church of Canton in Canton, NY. Those who attend are invited to bring objects to display during the service in honor of Bill.

obituaries, W


  1. Wednesday 25 September, 2013

    Dear Knoble Family,

    Our son, Peter E. Loree ’14 was lab partners with Bill Knoble in Sedimentology at St. Lawrence University. That sounds like a far stretch. Just a moment in time. One class. One academic course. Only few hours in a week with many hours; in a lifetime with many more tens of thousands of such hours.

    Yet, Peter’s plaintive, lonely text home “my lab partner has suddenly died” hit us in our hearts. Chests pounded. Breath was sucked in suddenly. It was so sad to hear. Peter then went on to say how nice a man Bill was. He’d just seen him hours before.

    As I later said to the Chairman of the Geology Department…these are the moments that no young college student ever expects to have happen to when they go off to college. The last thing they would think of. Yet, there is a positive spin to all of this. Bill Knoble was obviously a beloved member of the Geology Department. He walked amongst these young men and women and obviously touched their lives. Whatever he said and whatever he did with them in their classrooms and labs and hikes and outdoor field work…he will be remembered by them for the rest of their lives. He is woven into their youthful experiences. What he said. How he studied. The chair he sat in. His voice. His smile. Touchstones forever to their splendid days studying at St. Lawrence.

    So he will be remembered and missed and fondly thought of by these girls and guys. Nor every day. But at the oddest of times. Maybe when they’re graduating? Maybe when they’re looking at a particular rock? Maybe when the conversation turns to their love of the Adirondacks? We cannot say when…but know that he lives in their hearts tucked away in a little corner…always there…never forgotten.

    So thank you for giving us William Knoble for those few hours at St. Lawrence Univ. of his long lifetime. We are all once removed from each other…even in death.And we have to believe that Bill Knoble was put there as a plan by someone who knew what they were doing…because he will be spoken of fondly by this young generation of Geologists from St. Lawrence Univ. for many years to come as they begin their lifetimes as he began his in 1945.

    “A bove majori discit arare minor.”
    Latin for: “From the older ox, the younger learns to plow.”


    Thom R. Loree, MD
    Mrs. Kathleen Monomakhoff Loree
    Peter E. Loree, 14
    John T. Loree ’16, Vassar College
    Buffalo, NY

    “Requiescat in pace et in amore” for “May he rest in peace and love”

  2. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Bill’s family during this difficult time.
    Bill was a wonderful, warm person with a great sense of humor. We feel honored to have known him. He will be greatly missed.
    Lou and Inger Curth

  3. Dear Ellen,

    I was greatly saddened to hear about Bill’s death.

    Please accept Kathy’s and my heartfelt condolences.

    Know that you have many, many friends who are — we have no doubt — thinking and feeling the thoughts and emotions we are thinking and feeling now and are wishing you well at this momentous time in your life.

    Jon Montan

  4. Ellen –
    My deepest sympathies for your loss. Bill was a wonderful vibrant man and it was a pleasure to see you two make a loving life together. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. Dearest Ellen –

    Although I never met Bill if you loved him I’m sure he was an awesome person. I can see that through the heartfelt comments that have been left here. Please know I am sending you all the blessings and peace I can muster. Know that you are held gently and with love in the arms of all who know you in this very tough time — and always. May the worst of your grief be short and your happy memories comfort you forever.


  6. We are all heartbroken to hear about Bill. Thank you Jessie for calling Jane, she is distraught but not able to travel far these days. The whole community is richer for having had him, even if too briefly.


  7. I only met Bill a few times during visits to the Adirondacks many years ago, but he made a lasting impression with his gentle kindness and passion for his craft. Every visit I came back to PA with some of his beautiful pottery, which I treasure. This news was certainly a shock, and I send heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. I am posting here because I want you to know the breadth of people he touched and that his memory and legacy will live on in and with us. In reflecting on my sadness and what others have posted here, I recalled this quote: “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.”

  8. We are very, very sad as long time neighbors of Bill. I remember many great interactions with him. He seemed especially caring to children and to try and
    impart some wisdom always.
    We wish we had more time. We still love Bill.

    Lauren, Veronica, Nicholas pereau.

  9. Ellen, I’m so sorry to for your loss. I am told, and it appeared that Bill was your real connection. I celebrate that you found each other and grieve that you lost him so early and young. I know you are strong but will feel his absence no less for it; blues will have their way.

    I offer all that I have: my best wishes as you continue your journey.

    Steve Schoenbach

  10. Very sorry to hear this Bill was on my 46th peak and we still own much of his pottery. Loved just chatting with him in his shop.
    Great guy and a loss to all that new him. my prayers & thoughts with his family

  11. Steve and I have known Bill since 1974 and spent many hours at Red Truck talking with him, or should we say listening to him and his wisdom. We missed him when he moved north to be with Ellen, but were happy to catch him at odd times back in Chestertown. It was wonderful to see him so happy. Please know that our thoughts are with you all at this time, he will be greatly missed.
    Sandi & Steve Parisi

  12. No Bill? What a difficult concept to accept. Ellen,Naomi,Jess,other family members and close friends, I feel the pain too. Bill Knoble is one of the most authentic and inspiring people I have ever known.

    I never would have found the summit of several ADK High Peaks without Bill and never gotten out alive without his incredible knowledge of the deep woods. I literally trusted Bill, and his side kick Sheba, with my life during several of our winter sojourns. It didn’t take long, almost 20 years ago, to realize that Bill was much more than a highly competent wilderness hiker. The hours on the trail and staying over at the Pottery helped me appreciate his depth as a human. Keenly intelligent, very funny, constantly curious, surprisingly knowledgeable on wide ranging subjects, boundlessly energetic, athletic, industrious, kind, generous, humble, and courageous all describe this great man.

    I can’t attend the Service in Canton tomorrow unfortunately but I’ll be wearing the wool shirt he gave me as a gift for becoming a 46er.

    Bill,it was a great honor to have you as my friend. You are sorely missed.

    Rich Scott

  13. To all of Bill’s family and the greater circle of those who loved him,

    What a sad day to know Bill is no longer able to laugh and pontificate with us. It is hard for me to find the words to express my deep sadness. However, I have a favorite poem that helps.

    This gem by John O’Donohue vividly reminds be of the beauty life offers to quench our thirsts.…gratitude for Bill comes to mind reading this poem. He has all these colors…I hope you find comfort in it too.

    A New Day

    When the weight deadens
    On Your shoulders
    And you stumble,
    May the clay dance
    To balance you.

    And when your eyes
    Freeze behind
    The grey window
    And the ghost of loss
    Gets into you,
    May a flock of colours,
    Indigo, red, green
    And azure blue,
    Come to awaken in you
    A meadow of delight.

    When the canvas frays
    In the currach of thought
    And a stain of ocean
    Blackens beneath you,
    May there come across the waters
    A path of yellow moonlight
    To bring you safely home.

    May the nourishment of the earth be yours.
    May the clarity of light be yours,
    May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
    May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

    And so may a slow
    Wind work these words
    Of love around you,
    An invisible cloak
    To mind your life.

    John O’Donohue

  14. Dear Ellen and Bill’s family,
    I’m out of the country and just found out about Bill’s death through an email from friends. I’m so shocked and saddened and feeling terrible for all of you. I’m sorry I can’t be there for the memorial service, but I am in spirit.

  15. I am so saddened at Bill’s passing.

    Every summer, going back since I was teenager, I would look forward to a trip to my families home on Friends lake, and on the mornings after I arrived I found myself walking up those stairs, being greeted by a lazy dog, and looking for Bill. No trip up north would be complete without a visit to my friend. We would swap stories about life, I would poke around and inquire about the more experimental pieces hidden in the corner, and without a price. ” oh that was me being creative over the winter”, Bill would say, ” sometimes you got to take a break from making coffee cups.” I understood. and invariably I would end up going home with several of these one of a kind pieces. They had more meaning to me, they were Bill. And that became a lesson to me, a budding artist at the time. I learned from Bill about how to be content just creating. Because like Bill, I make art because I have too, I want to, what is done with it next, was less important. One year, I told Bill that I was working in Soho, and excitedly told him, ” you could get five times the price for these, they are brilliant! ” and he politely declined my suggestion. And I got it. A valuable lesson for me, ” I like my life now, like it is, I don’t need to get involved with all that.”

    Over the years I marveled at his north country life, I was looking at a man who was content, and happy. He talked of his friends, he showed off their work in his studio. He marveled at his children and the adventures they were on, and I listened, and pet the dog, and reconnected to my own internal compass. Thats what happens in the North country, thats what happens when you are lucky enough to find beautiful art. Because with each piece of pottery I took home with me, or gave away, there was a piece of that serenity that comes from the North country, that I learned from Bill. And I would drive south, with paper bags filled with pot’s and wrapped in old paper. I would show off the new stuff I got, always with a story. And I would share them with friends, always telling them about Bill, “this guy who lives up north and makes pottery all winter, and ski’s on good days, and then sells them in the summer, he is my friend !” With each piece of clay that I have, and I have shared with others there will always be a part of Bills soul, and with each different glaze a part of Bills spirit.

    He inspired me, and it saddened me when he told me that he would be giving up the place that I always made a pilgrimage too. But he was onto a new chapter, one filled with new people and a partner. Bill admitted his humanity, admitted his flaws, I admired that. He was a fine example of a life well lived, and over too soon.

    I hope you all, his friends and family, know that his spirit lives on, and is shared around the country, in the many pieces of pottery that I have purchased over the years. Each of which came with a story about the winter, a tale about an accidental discovery, and always with affection. I have about 40 pieces that I treasure, way too many coffee cups for one person to have, but all so beautiful. A story book if you will.

    Several years ago, I took some pictures of his work around the shop. I gave him a disk of the photographs It was my turn to share with him some of my skills, my art, even though he professed not knowing what to do with such a disk. If you can’t find it, I would be happy to share it with all of you. It’s the least I could do, share a moment in time, in his studio, in Chestertown. I just put them up on my flickr account.

    My Thoughts are with you,

    Matthew James Smith


  16. It was a shock and so hard to accept. I looked up to him in my teens and 20s as he was a few years older and knew what he wanted in life. I’ve always admired his independent approach and character – his good sense of humor, integrity and creative sense of purpose. He chose the road not taken and carved out a good life. He was generous in many ways and shared what was important in life. I think everyone who knew him will miss Bill.

    Our love to all of you. Tom & Celeste

  17. Dear Knoble family;
    Warm thoughts of compassion and sympathy are extended to you all as you navigate your lives without Bill. I and my family have known Bill since we moved to Chestertown in the early 70′s. My brother Jon worked for him in the studio for a short time.

    I had the privilege of “interning” with him during a short college break in the early 80′s. I had so many laughs, learned so much and grew very fond of Bill. He was so gracious, funny and serious, inspiring and talented. I learned to appreciate classical music, enjoy coffee, and laugh at myself more often.

    One humorous moment I can recall to share with you: one of the last times I saw Bill I bought a few pieces from the Chestertown studio. One was a berry bowl – a large two handled bowl with drain holes in the bottom. I asked him the price as it wasn’t marked. I watched as he carefully turned the bowl over in his hands and with a serious face informed me that it was a second because it was unfortunately cracked and would leak! It took me a second then I laughed out loud. Bill had a wonderful sense of humor. Then, in his ever gracious way, he proudly took me to the garden so I could meet his wife Ellen. He knew I would enjoy talking with her. He was right.

    I will miss Bill. Our family will miss Bill. Our community will miss Bill. I will cherish the many pieces of pottery I have from Bill as reminders of both time spent with him and of a joy in knowing his purposed and creative spirit.

    Jane Shupp Bennett

  18. Bill Knoble was one of the first people I met when I moved to the Adirondacks in 1975. I was fresh from the suburbs of New York and had no idea how to live without city stimulus. Bill showed me the way in his quiet pursuits of the mind. He was never still, always in the pursuit of experience and knowledge. His death is a great loss for all of us. My sympathy to his family and friends.

    Beth Rowe, Sonoma, Ca.

    1. Hi Beth,
      I saw your comment on the obit web page for Bill Knoble of Red Truck Clay Works. I helped Bill build a woodfired kiln in 1973, and then lived with his family (then wife Mary, and girl Jesse and baby Naomi) while we renovated cabins nearby for extra income. Bill was a great teacher, from whom this novice acquired appreciation for art.
      (A few years later I moved to Sonoma County, where I lived for 29 years. Now back in Vermont.)
      I just found out today that he had died, when I was trying to reach him regarding glazing cast iron.

  19. Having met Bill’s lovely family in 2005, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to all and to his wife Ellen with whom he found lasting happiness. I am grateful for the help Bill and I provided to each other at difficult times in our lives, and I am happy to count him among my bravest friends and inspiring fellow artists of the road. Repose maintenant en paix, cher ami!

  20. Ellen and family,
    I am so sorry to hear of Bill’s passing. I am sure he was an asset to the community as you and your family have been. You both have touched so many lives.
    Thank you

  21. Dear Ellen, Ben and I are so sad to hear of your loss. We know for sure that the last number of years were wonderful for Bill since he spent them with you.

  22. Words to describe Bill Knoble: Warm, great hugger, authentic, kind, insightful. Like a good pot, he was beautiful, not too heavy or too light, adaptive to different situations, and very well centered. I first met Bill over 20 years ago at Red Truck Clayworks in Chestertown, and own a lot of his work! Sometimes when I took friends there he was absent — in the winter, most likely skiing, in summer perhaps climbing — we made our purchases, left the money in the lidded pot, and rang the bicycle bell to cement the purchase. One time I left a check and a note: the piece I purchased had no price, so I guessed, and invited him to call me if I needed to send more. The next time I saw him he said I had priced it right.

    Bill was always hospitable, easy to talk with, twinkle in his eye and always in good humor. But it was after he and Ellen were planning on marrying that his whole face glowed — I was so happy for him, and grateful that he and Ellen had some years together, though I fondly wish we had all had him for anyother twenty years! Love to Ellen, and Jess and Naomi, both of whom I met at times at the studio.

    I shall treasure my many memories of Bill.

  23. Ellen we would like to express our deepest regrets to you and your family on the loss of Bill. He was a very pleasant man to be around and work for. We wish you the very best in the future.
    Best wishes,
    Joe & Cyrene Brouthers

  24. Bill was one of the first people I met when I moved to Darrowsville Road in 1978. Jessie and Mimi were little girls and my daughter Denise was their baby sitter. We had many good times together and over the years I acquired a whole set of service for 8 of Red Trucks Pottery and many other pieces as well. Bill was an artist. He was also a wonderful father to his two daughters and he was a good friend. Jessie and Mimi I send you bunches of love and wish I could be there to hug you. Love Nadine(Sawyer) Crockett.

  25. To Ellen and Family; Please accept our Sincere sympathy on the very untimely passing of Bill. We will always remember the Potlucks and the apple pressing that took place at the “Red Truck”. The cider was always special as was the wonderful breads that you would make. Hopefully we will get to see you again. Regards, Cliff and Maryjane

  26. To Bill’s beloved family and friends: I worked for Bill for several summers as his clay ‘slave’ we joked. He was a tough taskmaster and I worked long hours. But they are all happy memories of a creative time and meaningful discussions with Bill. He was a gifted artist and craft master and it seemed there was nothing he could not do. We became friends and he eventually came to my wedding and I got to meet his children. They were his joy and often on his mind. I know Providence in His wisdom took Bill quickly for his sake but I am sure it is hard on all of you. Blessings to you at this sad time. I hope the memories flow freely of Bill the Renaissance man. God knows we need more artists and environmentalist in this world.

  27. Dear Ellen and family: I heard about Bill this morning on the NCPR 8am local program. I did not realize he was your husband. As a 30+year listener to the station, I am familiar with your voice and wanted to extend my sincerest condolences to all of you, family and radio station family. He sounds so very interesting and full of life and talents–what a treasure!
    I just learned of the Forty-Sixers from a friend whose boyfriend was just completing his this past week. In such small ways are we all so connected….again, my sympathies to all of you. May you have peace, joy and comfort with your memories of your lives together. Danielle

  28. Over a time span of more than thirty years, we came to Bill’s shop in Chestertown and were always put in awe of his handiwork. We bought something, several somethings, at each visit. Our home is replate with many pottery pieces, some decorative and many of which have seen and continue to see day to day service. (One coffee mug in particular is my favorite. – John)

    One could tell quite clearly that Bill was of good heart and good cheer, a man who offered this world very much.

    In short, while he was among us, Bill made this world a better place.

  29. Dear Ellen, I am very sorry to hear of your loss. Bill sounds like an incredible person who lived a full life on his own terms. I wish I could have met him. Fred

  30. Dear Ellen,
    Sorry to be so late with my condolences (I’ve been ignoring most of my e-mail and don’t do Facebook).
    I’m so sorry to hear of Bill’s untimely passing… I hope that you have some comfort in the fact that he is
    mourned by many in the North Country and beyond.
    Best Wishes,
    Martha Lumley

  31. Dear Knoble Family,
    Bill and I visited for hours in his shop while my wife and friends shopped. Bill shared his wonderful stories, information, wisdom and humor. We were comfortable with each other and shared a lot of personal thoughts and feelings. I spent my career working in psychiatry which always was a fascination to him. I was amazed at the scope of his interests from pottery to Zen, apple orchards to geology, not to mention sheep, chickens and music. But mostly he was a great student of the human condition. The first time I met Bill I told him the my wife had given me one of his mugs. I admitted when I saw the mug I thought it looked “ordinary” but when I used the mug it fit my hand and lips perfectly. Bill smiled and said “That’s why I made it”. When I called him once in the middle of winter to tell him that mt wife, Caroline, had dropped her favorite blue mug and broke it, Bill, without pausing, said; “Good you will need two”. I noticed remarkable change in him when he married Ellen. He seemed to stand straighter ad was more optimistic about life. I know it was a hard decision to leave Chestertown but never an option to not. I told him about my son, an artist, living in NY City while his wife lives in Chicago, working for the Art Institute. Bill later said he had told this to Ellen and she responded ” Don’t get any ## ideas buddy” I will miss him more then anyone will know. Sincerely Christopher Glenn

  32. Bill was the best! I have been coming to Brant Lake and Chestertown for 30 years and was always looking forward to seeing Bill’s latest work.. or his “Fresh Pots” sign leaning near his studio and home. Of course we were not thrilled to see him leave Chestertown, but knew that it was a positive and happy move for him. He was happy and content to start a new life up north.
    I am so sorry for your loss. We will all miss him.

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