The loss of Bob Knipe is one which will be felt in nearly every corner of Genesee County.
Knipe, 73, died Saturday at home after a brief illness, with his family at his side.
Knipe came to Genesee County from the West Coast to work at Genesee Community College, where he spent 23 years before retiring as dean of Learning Technologies.
“It wasn’t just the college Bob was passionate about,” said S. Shade Zajac, conductor of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra, in which Knipe played the French horn. “Rotary, GO ART!, United Way – he was involved in them all. He had a deep love of community. He touched so many people.”
Zajac recalls the first time he met Knipe at GO ART!, where he interviewed for the job as orchestra conductor.
“I got there early because I was so nervous, and Bob met me at the door,” Zajac said. “He called me by my first name and that put me ease.”
He said Knipe was never one to shy away from a joke, corny or otherwise. He played in Zajac’s trial concert, and the first conversation they had after Zajac got the job was about all the different projects Knipe wanted to do with the orchestra.
“Bob was a staunch supporter of this orchestra back before I was born,” said the 27-year-old conductor. “Performing and music – that was Bob. He loved to play with the orchestra and they loved him. Bob’s love and knowledge of the orchestra are undisputable. To say he was loved and respected throughout the entire orchestra is an understatement.”
Before Knipe’s death, the orchestra had been planning a virtual concert in his honor.
“We had sent the music we were going to play to Bob’s wife, Linda, and she played it for him,” Zajac said. “He was very touched.”
When the orchestra learned about the concert paying tribute to Knipe, Zajac said the response from the entire orchestra was overwhelming.
“It is a tribute to how much he was loved and respected," Zajac said.
Even Patty Hume from GCC contacted Zajac and asked if they would like to use space at the college to perform. In addition, the college’s tech team will assist with the recording.
The music for the program is peaceful and quiet, because Knipe’s wife did not want the music to be sad.
The virtual concert is scheduled for March 26, and to watch the livestreamed concert from GCC's Stuart Steiner Theatre, folks should go to the orchestra’s website to find a live link to tune into at 7:30 that evening.
There will be a donate button for those who wish and funds which come in will be given to Knipe’s family to establish a memorial as they wish, said Roxie Choate, president of the orchestra's Board of Directors.
The orchestra is suggesting the Knipe family consider setting up a college scholarship fund for a high school senior who will be entering the field of music.
Marjorie Fulmer shared her memories of playing flute with Bob in the GSO.
“I’m not sure how many years Bob has been a member of the GSO, but I’ve been a member for 35 years and he has been there most of that time," Fulmer said. "We also spent many years on the board together, and we were co-presidents for a couple of those years. His boundless enthusiasm and true love and appreciation for the orchestra always came through loud and clear.
"He seemed to have endless energy for both the mental and physical aspects of running a community orchestra. He was constantly the one who schlepped around the music stands to various venues and set the stage up countless times so it would be ready for the other musicians at rehearsals and concerts. While many of the orchestra members are music teachers or have some kind of professional background related to music, Bob did not.
"So many times he told me that one of the goals of a community orchestra should be inclusiveness and he totally appreciated that the GSO included him. The arts in Genesee County have much to thank Bob Knipe for.”
Barb Meyer, a fellow hornist with Knipe, shared some of the light moments they enjoyed in the orchestra. Her memories are of the times they would get in trouble for playing too aggressively or missing their entrance and were chided for talking and not paying attention.
Meyer said Knipe wore many hats in the orchestra, as operations manager, as well as president. He loved pranks, she said, and it was not unusual for the conductor to turn around after speaking to the audience only to see the horn section decked out in something on their heads. Knipe’s favorite was his big bag of reindeer antlers and Santa hats for the annual holiday concert.
“I will miss his sense of humor, dedication and love of music, in addition to the corny music jokes and pranks,” Meyer said.
She also noted a rare coincidence -- that her horn and Bob’s are both Conn 8D models, and were built within a short time of each other, as the serial numbers are close.
“What are the chances of that in the same orchestra?” she asked.
Gregg McAllister became friends with Knipe through their involvement in Rotary 30 years ago.
“Bob was the kind who immediately put down roots and became involved in his community,” McAllister said. “He became involved because he wanted to better the community where he lived. Bob was involved in so many things and he was such a pleasure to work with. He was always willing to take on the job as board member or leader, but he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, either.”
McAllister cited a recent gleaning project undertaken by Rotary, where Knipe was there with his pickup collecting beets. When they cleaned up Rotary Park and made repairs at the Domestic Violence Safe House, Knipe was there working.
One day week, Knipe volunteered to drive military veterans to medical appointments.
McAllister said one very important program Knipe was involved in with him for 25 years was Rotary’s Youth Exchange Program, which provided life-changing experiences for youth from around the world. As a result, tributes and condolences have been coming in from all over the world.
“Bob loved to travel to other countries, but he loved Batavia, too,” McAllister said.
Board President Choate was also a member of the Batavia First Presbyterian Church with Knipe.
“He was very involved with the church, holding some of their decision-making positions,” she said. “Wherever Bob was, he held a strong leadership role. Bob was also a huge family man.”
Conductor Zajac added a comment about the orchestra’s holiday presentation of “Encore” at Christmas time.
“As a member of the GCC faculty, Knipe had tried for many years to make the holiday concert happen with the Genesee Symphony,” Zajac said. “The day I told him, he was ecstatic. To me it is incredibly fitting and heartwarming that Bob’s last concert should be ‘Encore.’ ”
Knipe’s full obituary can be read here on The Batavian.
Top photo, by Howard Owens.
Photo below, courtesy of Genesee Symphony Orchestra.
Bottom photo, by Howard Owens.