Record Staff Writer
Lt. Gen. Richard T. Knowles (ret) passed away at the age of 96 in his home in Roswell, Wednesday morning. His daughter Diane Buchwald and son Richard J. Knowles were present, as well as two caregivers and the Lt. Gen.’s dog, Maggie.
Lt. Gen. Knowles was born in 1916, in Chicago. He left the University of Illinois and joined the Army in 1942, where he served for 32 years, fighting in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. During his army tenure, the Lt. Gen. was decorated with the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with “V” device, the Distinguished Service Cross with four oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, 25 Air Medals, and a Purple Heart.
“Every kid growing up thinks of his father as a hero,” said the Lt. Gen.’s son, retired New Mexico District Judge Richard J. Knowles, of Albuquerque. “[Lt. Gen. Knowles] wasn’t just a hero to me, he was a hero to his country and his community.
“That was an inspirational thing.”
The Lt. Gen. was highly involved in the New Mexico Military Institute.
As a representative in the New Mexico Legislature (R-57) from 1983-1998, he worked to make the Institute more accessible to potential cadets who could not otherwise afford to attend. He and former Sen. Tim Jennings established the New Mexico Legislative Scholarship in 1989. The scholarship has covered tuition, fees, and other expenses for up to 112 students each year since it was initiated. The award is valued at roughly $4,700, and is the largest scholarship program at the Institute.
Jennings, who attended NMMI between 1965 and 1968 with Lt. Gen. Knowles’ stepson Stan Crosby, praised the Lt. Gen. for the fortitude he demonstrated at the Roundhouse.
“He was a ‘soldier soldier,’ and he carried that with him throughout his life,” Jennings said. “He was just a giant among men.”
He noted that Lt. Gen. Knowles was the highest ranking officer shot down in Vietnam.
NMMI administrators also expressed high reverence for the deceased.
“What a loss to New Mexico and to New Mexico and to NMMI,” said Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle, NMMI superintendent. “We haven’t had such a positive force for the school in a long time.”
Brig. Gen. Richard V. Geraci USA (ret), commandant of cadets and dean of students at NMMI, first met the Lt. Gen. when the Institute hosted him as the reviewing officer of the NMMI Regimental Parade in 2005. He referred to Lt. Gen. Knowles as a “household name” at the Institute.
At home, Lt. Gen. Knowles was a role model for his children and grandchildren. Crosby, a resident of Roswell who is retired from a career in oil and gas, said his own 18-year-old son is currently in basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma because of the influence of his step-grandfather, “whom he idolized.”
On a lighter note, Crosby remembered his stepfather’s love of poker.
“All the kids had to play poker with him, no matter what age they were.”
Lt. Gen. Knowles was married to Crosby’s mother, Elizabeth Kay Knowles, for four decades. Elizabeth Knowles died just before her 87th birthday in November of last year.
Richard J. Knowles described his father as a “wild card” who led a “remarkable life.” He recounted events in his father’s life as varied as witnessing an atomic bomb test in Nevada, working as a golf caddy in Chicago, driving from Illinois to California on Route 66, and running an antique store during his time in the Legislature.
In addition to his stepson Crosby, son Knowles, and daughter Buchwald, Lt. Gen. Knowles is survived by his daughters Katherine Buck and Rebecca Crosby; his stepson Steven Wood Chaney; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
The family of the deceased is still in the process of finalizing service arrangements, which are to take place at LaGrone Funeral Chapel.
Brig. Gen. Geraci says NMMI also plans to host an event in memorial of the Lt. Gen.