Lee M. Knickelbine, 87, treasured brother, father, grandfather and father-in-law and a lifelong resident of Manitowoc, died of heart failure Wednesday, May 4, 2022, at Aurora BayCare in Green Bay.
He was born on July 8, 1934, to Marvin and Evelyn (Monka) Knickelbine, both of Manitowoc. He spent much of his boyhood with his father, hunting, fishing, working on the family’s hobby farm, and hiding on the barn roof from visitors. He was a 1952 graduate of Manitowoc Lincoln High School. After a time working at Manitowoc Shipbuilding and Mirro Aluminum, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served in an intelligence division, monitoring coded radio transmissions from a mountaintop in Austria.
After returning from Europe, Lee attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and returned to his job at Mirro. He married Marcia Adelman in 1957 and the couple had four children. They were divorced in 1981.
He joined Lakeside Machine in Manitowoc, first as a machinist and later as a millwright, and worked there until his retirement. His motto was, “A fellow ought to be able to build one of those things,” and he turned his hand to everything from houses to flintlock rifles to musical instruments, even creating an ill-fated mechanical chicken plucker from a grinding wheel and rubber flappers. He bred and raised Springer Spaniels for hunting and funded many family Christmases by trapping muskrat along the Manitowoc River. He tried to teach his kids outdoorsmanship and morse code, but in the end, it was his creativity, inventiveness and sense of humor that rubbed off.
In 1982 he married Paula Harvatine. The two shared an active outdoor and social life, camping, sailing and traveling. Lee became a devoted father figure to Paula’s two sons. After his retirement, Lee and Paula wintered in Tree Lakes, Florida, returning to Manitowoc for the holidays and summer months.
Lee was an active member of the community, serving as Scoutmaster for the Silver Lake troop of Boy Scouts for several years. He was an avid bowler and skeet shooter, and despite his lifelong sea-sickness he joined the Manitowoc Yacht Club, serving two terms as its Commodore.
Shortly after Paula’s death in 2012, Lee developed Wegener's Granulomatosis, an auto-immune disease that attacks the heart, lungs and kidneys. He suffered kidney failure and spent the next decade receiving hemodialysis three times a week, eventually moving permanently back to his home in Manitowoc and receiving treatment at Fresenius Kidney Care. Nevertheless, he welcomed visits from his family and especially his grandchildren, and remained active around the house, although – sadly for him -- his hunting activities were limited to shooting squirrels in his living room. He was a gifted storyteller, continually surprising family with stories from his younger days and the mischief he and his friends got into.
Lee is survived by one brother, John (Emily Jackson) of Evanston, IL, four children: Mark (Lynn) of Mount Horeb, Scott (Jean) of Madison, Ted (Merrianne) of Lake Havasu, AZ, and Laura Luftman (Chuck) of St. Anthony, MN; two stepsons: Sean Harvatine (Sarah) of Janesville and Seth Harvatine (Julie) of Sheboygan; and nine grandchildren: Alison Knickelbine (Kiara Sakamoto), Ben Knickelbine, Ezra Knickelbine (Alison Fish), Trey Larent, Soren Knickelbine, Ian Harvatine, Anna Harvatine, Jack Knickelbine, and Sean Harvatine II.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Paula, and one brother, Dale Knickelbine.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting memorials to be made in Lee’s name to the National Organization for Rare Diseases (rarediseases.org), which supports research and advocacy for Wegener’s Granulomatosis and other disorders. The Pfeffer Funeral Home assisted the family with arrangements.
Expressions of sympathy and stories about Lee may be sent to the family by visiting www.lakeshorefamilyfuneralhomes.com. In accordance with Lee’s wishes, no funeral is planned, but the family will have a celebration of his life in June.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Lee M. Knickelbine, please visit our floral store.