Friday, April 30, 1999

Farewell for 'Mr. Mason'

Knott was fire, police chief

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Mourners turned out Thursday to bid farewell to the man many called “Mr. Mason.”

        James J. Knott, a Mason official for more than 60 years, was surrounded at his funeral by the things he cared about most: his family, his friends and his fire department.

        More than 100 firefighters, police officers and sheriff's deputies from Butler and Warren counties came to pay their final respects to the local legend.

        Mr. Knott, 91, died Monday at Mason Christian Village.

        “Chief Knott was Mr. Mason,” said Rick Easter, a Mason firefighter for 20 years. “He helped form this city into what it's become today.”

        More than 200 people attended the service at Heritage Presbyterian Church in Mason, where Mr. Knott was a member for 78 years. His casket, adorned with flowers and a Mason volunteer fire chief's helmet, sat at the front of the sanctuary as mourners came forward to share personal tributes and recollections of their encounters with “The Chief.”

        “Jim was a servant,” said Mason Municipal Court Judge David Batsche. “He was a public servant and a Christian servant. He loved his Lord, his family, his friends and especially his community.”

        “He knew virtually everything there was to know about this community,” said the Rev. Ron Trapp, pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church. “He was the city's number one public servant.”

        Cay Steinhauer, a former firefighter and friend of Mr. Knott for 50 years, said, “Everybody thought he was so stern, but on the inside he was as soft as a marshmallow. He was a good man and an even better friend.”

        Following the church ceremonies, Mr. Knott's casket was loaded onto a fire engine from the city's first volunteer fire department and taken to Rose Hill Cemetery. There, about 40 fire engines, ambulances and police cruisers sounded their sirens in tribute to Mr. Knott, while members of the Butler County Sheriff's Pipes and Drum Corps played taps and “Amazing Grace.” “I think Chief Knott would have been proud of today's services,” said Mason Fire Chief Billy Goldfeder. “I think this is exactly how he would've wanted to be remembered.”

        Mr. Knott, a native of Mason, wore many hats as a city public servant in the 1930s. He began his career as a garbage collector, but quickly rose through the ranks. From 1930 to 1938, he was superintendent of Rose Hill Cemetery in Mason. He also served as Mason's street commissioner, and briefly, as a city councilman.

        Mr. Knott became a police officer in 1949 and was named police chief in 1957. He remained in that post until 1975.

        He also worked as a bailiff in the Mason Municipal Court until 1995, but his first love was the fire department.

        Mr. Knott was a firefighter for 40 years and chief of the Mason Volunteer Fire Department from 1949-70. The Mason fire station on Mason-Montgomery Road was named for him in 1989.

        “Jim's whole life was the fire department,” said Lt. Phil Berner of the Mason Fire Department. “I'm sure he's up in heaven now keeping an eye on this fire department.”

        Chief Goldfeder added: “Even though I'm Mason's fire chief now, Jim Knott will always be "The Chief.'”

        Mr. Knott is survived by a daughter, Marilyn Taylor of Mason, a daughter-in-law, Velma Runyan of Mason, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. His wife, Mary Tyler Runyan Knott, and stepson, Jack Runyan, preceded him in death.


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