Vindicator Logo

F.W. KNECHT III Forge owner, trustee at YSU

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Knecht also was active in many other community organizations.
BOARDMAN -- F.W. Knecht III, a prominent businessman and trustee of Youngstown State University and Grove City College, died of cancer Wednesday in St. Elizabeth Health Center.
He was 66.
Besides his role as a university trustee, he was best known for his ownership of Wendell August Forge in Grove City, Pa., which opened in 1923 and is the nation's oldest and largest currently operating forge.
Knecht, who went by Bill, is the second YSU trustee to die in less than two months. Charles B. Cushwa III, 69, died in December during heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.
YSU supporter
In 1999, he was named to the YSU board, where he was known as an ardent supporter and advocate of the university, said David Sweet, YSU president.
"As a member of the YSU board of trustees, he was always thoroughly prepared and was continually seeking ways to improve the institution. His loyalty, wisdom, generosity of spirit and incomparable enthusiasm will be greatly missed," Sweet said.
Joseph Nohra, fellow YSU trustee, said that he had visited Knecht in the hospital Tuesday.
"I feel so sad. I lost my colleague," he said. "I can't describe to you how much I'm going to miss him."
He called Knecht "one of the most outstanding human beings I have ever met."
"He had outstanding vision. He had so many ideas in his head. Everyday he thought about what would be good for YSU," Nohra said. "He was a very moral man with tremendous dedication to the university and the community.
"Whatever you can find about goodness in the dictionary you can use to describe Bill Knecht," Nohra said. "A Bill Knecht comes around only once in a lifetime. We're fortunate."
The forge
Knecht, of Boardman, bought Wendell August Forge in 1978 from the August family, and turned it into a multimillion-dollar manufacturer of intricate hand-made metal giftware it is today.
Using tons of aluminum and bronze annually, the company is widely known for creating and engraving individually hammered collectibles.
In 1995, as the company embarked on plans for retail facilities throughout the Midwest and South and for expanded direct mail operations, he announced the appointment of his son, Will, as company president, and turned the operation of the company over to him.
After that, the elder Knecht continued to serve as the company's chief executive.
He previously worked as a salesman for IBM Corp., where he specialized in educational sales. In 1974, IBM named him to its Golden Circle, which designated him as one of the top 100 sales representatives in the country.
Other community ties
C. Reid Schmutz, YSU Foundation president, called Knecht a valuable community asset. Knecht was on the foundation's board.
"He contributed greatly to the success of both the YSU Foundation and the university," Schmutz said.
Knecht was a 1960 graduate of YSU with a bachelor's degree in foreign languages.
He was honored by YSU with its Distinguished Citizen Award in 2001, the university's highest honor. That same year, a YSU scholarship, the F.W. "Bill" Knecht III Scholarship, was established in his name. He also served as YSU commencement speaker in August of 2001 and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree.
A former president of the YSU Penguin Club, he was named Penguin of the Year by that organization in 2003.
In January 1999, he was inducted into the YSU Athletic Hall of Fame as a contributor.
Knecht received many other honors as well. In 1992, hewas recognized as a regional finalist for Inc. Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Other awards include: 1995 Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts of America French Creek Council, 1996 Distinguished Citizen Award from ThielCollege and 1996 Great Communicator Award from the Youngstown Hearing and Speech Center.
He has been president of The Youngstown Club, Boardman Civic Association and Boardman Board of Education.
He was on the boards of Penn Northwest Development Corp., Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mahoning Valley Historical Society and Rockwell Springs Trout Club.
He also was a member of the Dover Club, Duquesne Hunting and Fishing Club, Tippecanoe Country Club and Four Square Club. He attended Zion Lutheran Church.
Besides his wife, Connie, he leaves his son, Will; daughter, Deborah Fetter; and five grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were pending this morning at Davis Funeral Home.