TRIBUNE NEWS STAFF
ather Harold Stanley Knight, a retired Mesa Episcopalian priest believed to have been Arizona’s oldest man, passed away Nov. 17 at age 108.
Born on July 26, 1912, to a prominent New York State Baptist family, Father Knight also had been the world’s oldest Episcopalian priest.
He moved in 1957 to Mesa, where he was pastor of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church for 20 years.
Before joining the Episcopal Church, he had been a Baptist pastor from 1937 to 1948 and then became an Episcopalian rector at three New York State churches between 1948-77.
Father Knight in 1934 earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in philosophy from the University of Rochester in New York and three years later earned his master’s degree from the Colgate Rochester Divinity School, a Baptist theology school also in New York State.
After moving to Mesa, he embraced the community, where he was a member of Oriental Lodge 20, the Mesa Rotary Club, president of the Mesa Community Council, twice president of the Mesa Association of Churches and a member of the Mesa United Fund, Salvation Army and Tri-City Service Center boards.
“The Mesa community loved him and he comfortably adapted to a real western culture, which he loved back,” said his son, Dr. Douglas W. Knight.
His involvement in the community earned him numerous accolades, including the 1978 Mesa Citizen of the Year Award, the Salvation Army’s Others Award in 1978 and William Booth Award in 1984. He also earned the Mesa United Fund’s 1983 Service Award.
After retiring from St. Mark’s in 1977 as the longest-serving rector in its 104-year history, Father Knight served twice as interim rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Phoenix and also was a part-time staff member at St. Barnabas on the Desert Episcopal Church in Scottsdale.
He loved writing poetry and reading.
Tattered copies of paperback books – such as “Nobel Prize Conversations” and “Theosophy: A Modern Expression of the Wisdom of the Ages” – could be found at his bedside table.
In an interview with the Tribune just prior to his 107th birthday last year, Father Knight attributed his longevity to his wife’s cooking. He was married for 47 years to his wife Edithanne, 97.
He also said he came from strong stock, partly Scottish.
“No one else in my family has ever done this,” he said. “Something like this age, I think, is in the DNA molecules somewhere. I credit that. How it got there, I don’t know.”
His father was always very involved in his childhood, he recalled.
“I had a father who was very attentive and very kind. He gave me a lot of time, and I appreciate that,” Father Knight said. “I have nothing to regret.”
He said his studies of psychology and philosophy influenced his approach to life as a religious man.
“Philosophy is a wide field of interest,” he said. “The philosophy of science, in the past, was all materialism – matter is the only thing that exists. But that has changed now, in some ways. There’s more than matter . . . I say, God, of course.”
Father Knight added that philosophy “continued to be [my] major all [my] life.”
He led St. Mark’s into broader ecumenical relationships with other Mesa churches, expanded its ministries and focused extensively on Christian education for children, teens and young families.
When the present church was built in 1981, a designated event space was renamed Knight Hall in the rector’s honor.
“I did a lot of things in town. We had a group in Mesa called the Mesa Community Council, which was a group to look into things we might need to get done,” he said.
“We’d make suggestions to the city council or do things ourselves, and I headed that for some time.”
An avid tennis player in his youth, Knight developed a knack for poetry back in 1937.
When asked if thinks writing poetry has helped to keep his mind sharp, he laughed and said, “If it kept my mind sharp, I could still be writing poetry.”
Father Knight is survived by his widow, his son Douglas, wife Rosemarie Heywood Knight and their children Christian Knight, Jennifer “Jan” Barglowski, Eric Knight (Olga) and daughter Cheryl Knight Durfee (and her children Zane, Tracy, Kylynn, Todd, Linda and Cherry).
He also is survived by a total of 13 great grandchildren and six great grandchildren as well as his step-children Barbara Anne Gibson and Bryn Elise Allen and their children.
Services have been deferred until next year because of the pandemic.
The family requests that interested persons stay in touch with St. Barnabas Church in Scottsdale for future announcements. ′