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John Vearen Knickerbocker passed away peacefully at home in Satellite Beach, Florida at 8:00 p.m. on September 6, 2018. John was surrounded by the love of his family at the time of his passing.
He was born at 4:35 a.m. on December 31, 1931 and was the last child, of record, born in Mary Fletcher Hospital, Burlington, Vermont. John was the middle son of five boys born to Charles Willard Knickerbocker and Kathryn Alice Recor.
He was raised in Burlington, Vermont and attended Burlington High School where he played center on the football team (leather helmets without face masks). John had the good fortune of meeting a girl at the age of 15 who would turn out to be the love of his life. They dated all through high school and continued their romance during college at the University of Vermont.
Most everyone would agree that Janice Danforth was the best thing that ever happened to John. Both John and Jan played in the UVM marching band, John on the tuba and Jan on the French Horn. John graduated with an Electrical Engineering Degree and Janice with an English Degree. They married after college on May 30, 1954.
John secured a job out of college with the United States Army at Fort Monmouth in Eatontown, New Jersey. After marrying Janice, the couple moved to Long Branch, New Jersey where they rented their first apartment together and John began his first position in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance technologies with the United States Army. While at this position, John was tasked with the training of U.S. Army troops in the deployment, use and repair of technical equipment.
Before television was available to most of America, John had his own on-base military television show to assist with his teaching. Between 1955 and 1962 John and Jan gradually outgrew their Long Branch apartment. With 4 children in tow, John moved the family to a larger home on Rumson Road near Sickle’s Farm in Little Silver, New Jersey. John and Jan and their growing family loved camping and the outdoors. Much of the family’s free-time was spent on vacations to Vermont and Massachusetts camping, hiking, and visiting family. To keep their active boys busy, John and Jan built a huge porch along the entire length of their new home and encouraged the kids to camp out there during the summer months.
As the story goes, John gave Janice the choice of trying to get pregnant with a girl or build the porch. Janice chose the porch where later that summer their baby girl was conceived. John added a tree house in the backyard and installed 3 long rope swings made of thick marine rope that he collected from the Ship Ahoy Beach Club in Seabright where he worked after hours. In the evenings, especially on Sundays, the family would gather around a brand new 12-inch television and watch Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color and eat heaping bowls of popcorn. The Knickerbockers were livin’ the life!
As the boys grew and with a new baby, John bought a spacious three-story home on River Road in Fair Haven, New Jersey which he purchased for $17,000! Some of the highlights of this home for John’s boys were a renovated attic bedroom, a balcony, a huge five car garage and loft to explore with lots of kids in the neighborhood, the close proximity to a pond full of ducks to feed and big trees to climb in the backyard.
John’s expertise in the relatively new field of Satellite Communications led him to West Germany as a U.S. Army civilian instructor tasked to train US Army and German military personnel in satellite surveillance technology in 1963. He moved the family to Janice’s parent’s home in Danville, Vermont until the children completed the school year. The Army flew Janice and children to Frankfurt, Germany and the family was reunited with John in the summer of 1964.
John made sure to take his family with him regularly on business/pleasure trips throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland. The Knickerbockers explored numerous castles along the Rhine River, they stayed in small town gasthaus’ as they traveled. They slid down long, steep chutes deep into the Salzburg salt mines and rode trains up into the Alps with snow plows making passage through snow higher than the train roof. They had an experience of a lifetime living in Germany. But John’s work was at times risky and dangerous, especially around the border surveillance between East and West Germany. One time, John made it even more dangerous when he and a couple G.I. buddies thought it was a good idea to sneak through no-mans-land up to the Berlin Wall separating East Berlin from West Berlin, past armed guards, to retrieve a rock specimen for his mother’s rock collection. She had rocks from all over the world collected for her by friends and relatives. Needless to say, John’s specimen for her made quite the impression! John completed his Army instruction duties and the family returned to Fair Haven in 1965.
John was becoming the expert in satellite communications and surveillance and in 1967 he was promoted and transferred to Florida. He worked on numerous projects being manufactured at Radiation, Inc. (later renamed Harris Corporation) and was in-charge of making sure the production, inspection, and transport of finished ‘projects’ all over the world occurred without a hitch and on-time.
The family moved to Poinsettia Road in Melbourne Beach, Florida near John’s work. While living in Melbourne Beach the boys became regulars at the beach and fished the Indian River often. The family continued camping with trips to the springs near Ocala and Boy Scout outings across Central Florida, as well as trips to see Vermont and Massachusetts relatives in the summer.
In 1969, John was transferred back to New Jersey and work at Fort Monmouth. The family lived on Holborn Lane in Neptune until the children completed high school. During this time John traveled extensively all over the United States and Overseas doing what he did best, coordinating production, inspection, transportation, and installation of projects. His reputation for making sure things were done correctly and on-time earned him the nickname, “The Can-Do Man” by his department and co-workers. Despite his heavy work schedule, John, with Janice supported the boys in their high school scholastic and athletic endeavors. Janice worked on the Neptune School Board and John and Jan initiated the Red and Black Boosters, raising money for school activities and supporting the Neptune High School sports teams. They and other parents built and manned a concession stand at home football games. They both attended most football, baseball, wrestling and track events that their boys were participating. When Jeff, Jim and Joel had bruised bodies or muscle pulls after a sporting event, John was famous for his hot towel and rubbing alcohol massages.
In the summer of 1981, John and Jan moved back to Florida and bought a double-wide manufactured home in Auburndale. John had plans of retiring there in a few years. At the time he was in charge of the SATCOM Florida Field Office in Palm Bay and commuted there, 2 hours each way, daily. With this added stress, John had a minor stroke but recovered fully. He decided to rent an apartment in Palm Bay which he later shared with his son, James, when he moved to Florida after completing his service in the U.S.A.F. and started work at Harris Corporation. John and Jan eventually sold the Auburndale home and moved to a home on Conifer Street in West Melbourne near Johns’ work. John officially retired in 1986 with more than 30 years of service under his belt. John and Jan lived in their West Melbourne home for another twenty years enjoying their pool, eating fresh fruit from their trees, and hosting visits from their children and their families. They were both very active members of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Melbourne and had many good friends there. Janice loved her work on the women’s guild. John and Jan were instrumental in starting the Holy Trinity Thrift Shop in old town Melbourne where John would often be seen hauling, loading and unloading donated items from his trailer or working behind the desk with Janice. John’s health began to fail in the early 2000’s and in 2005 John and Jan sold their home and moved with Julie and Michael to Bristol, Tennessee.
John and Jan enjoyed the natural beauty of the Tennessee mountains which reminded them of their early days in Vermont. Over the next seven years there were many happy hours spent bird-watching from their back porch, having barbecues with new friends and family, scenic drives through the mountains and bonding with their daughter. Janice, Julie and Michael became John’s caregivers as his health deteriorated. In 2012, John and Jan moved back to Florida with Julie and Michael to their new home on Norwood Avenue in Satellite Beach. Over time the rest of the Knickerbocker children all relocated to Florida.
Janice passed away suddenly in October of 2013 leaving Julie and Michael as John’s primary caregivers until his death in September of 2018. John and Janice had lives that were long and well lived, 59 of their years together. John will be missed, as Janice is missed, by all of us left behind. Let it be some consolation to us that John and Janice are now together again. We count ourselves lucky to have known their love in our lives.
John was preceded in death by his parents, Charles Willard Knickerbocker, Sr. and Kathryn Recor, his wife of 59 years, Janice Danforth, and his brothers, Charles Willard Knickerbocker, Jr. and Hubert deLancey Knickerbocker.
John is survived by his brothers, Alan Dow Knickerbocker and Jerry Pierce Knickerbocker and Gayle, his children, Jeffrey John Knickerbocker and Holly, James Danforth Knickerbocker and Lorre, Joel Charles Knickerbocker and Debbie, and Julie Knickerbocker Gammon and Michael, his grandchildren, Lauren Knickerbocker Relyea and Daniel, Daniel John Knickerbocker and Christina, Mallory Mason Nielson and Tim, Jessica Lewis, Kelly Ann Knickerbocker Begy and Bruce, Nichole B. Knickerbocker Hallock and Bobby, Nicholas B. Knickerbocker and Bess, and Kaitlyn Lombardi, and his great-grandchildren, Nolan, William, Lily, Waylon, Brantley, Scarlett, Violet, Briallen, Johnny, Allie, Cash, Wyatt and Zoe.
A Funeral Service to Celebrate John’s life will be held on September 29, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. at Holy Apostle Episcopal Church, 505 Grant Avenue, Satellite Beach, Florida 32937.
Following the Service everyone is invited for food, drink and remembrance at the home of Julie and Michael Gammon, 350 Norwood Avenue, Satellite Beach, FL 32937.
Please call if you need directions 321-610-3706
In lieu of flowers, the family would so appreciate a small donation in the name John V. Knickerbocker to: Satellite Beach Fire Rescue, 1390 South Patrick Drive, Satellite Beach, FL 32937-4380