Olympia's Carl Knirk remembered as a 'gentle giant'

June 3, 2010

Carl Knirk, who served more than a dozen years as canon for stewardship and evangelism for the Seattle-based Diocese of Olympia and recently began a term as president of the Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), died May 29. He was 65.

At 6'4" tall, Knirk had a quick smile and twinkling eyes and was considered by many to be a gentle giant, said the Rev. Laurel Johnston, the Episcopal Church's program officer for stewardship.

"Carl's bright, broad smile nicely matched his broad shoulders," she said. "Both carried the joy that comes from recognizing one's life as an offering to the one who creates, redeems and sustains us all."

"If someone could be considered 'salt of the earth,' it certainly was Carl," reflected Bishop Greg Rickel of Olympia. "I give thanks for this joyful saint of God who brightened our lives and led us in new and faithful ways in this church."

The Rt. Rev. Edna Bavi "Nedi" Rivera, provisional bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, recalled Knirk as a person of deep faith.

"His faith was integral to who he was and how he lived his life," said Rivera, who worked closely with Knirk when she was bishop suffragan of Olympia. "It was part of his relationship with his family, and it was essential to his decisions about what he would do with his life."

Knirk was hired by Bishop Vincent Warner in 1998, and was responsible for developing planned gifts to benefit the diocese and congregations as well as coordinating the diocesan stewardship and development program, including the Episcopal Charities Appeal.

Prior to becoming president of TENS, Knirk served for several years as a board member of the network.

"Carl was who he was without pretense," said TENS executive director Tom Gossen, who recalled Knirk as a man of integrity who encouraged people to "consider their faith journey in connection with their journey in generosity, and how the two are connected."

In 2005, the Diocese of Olympia partnered with St. Paul's Episcopal Church and School in New Orleans to assist in Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Knirk was committed to the project, called 'We Will Stand With You,' and was integral not only to the diocese's fundraising efforts but to the people of St. Paul's and to their larger community. He traveled to New Orleans on numerous occasions to work with church members and to be a presence in their lives.

"St. Paul's [New Orleans] is one of our congregations," he reflected after a visit in March 2010. The week before his death, Knirk sent a check for $30,000, which fulfilled the $500,000 pledge the Diocese of Olympia made nearly five years earlier.

He was born July 5, 1944 in Ohio. He received a bachelor's degree in economics from Marietta College, a master's degree in business from Eastern Kentucky University and a human services certificate from the University of Washington.

He had lived in Australia for several years and remained a frequent visitor. He and his wife Susan shared a love of hiking, photography and jazz, and documented several trips to Europe and Mexico as well as an annual pilgrimage to the Monterey Jazz Festival.

A member of St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Knirk served on the vestry, including terms as treasurer, chair of the development committee, and as a lay reader. He also served as summer camp director for Camp Huston in the Diocese of Olympia from 1975-1977 and was active in the Cursillo movement.

Prior to coming to the Diocese of Olympia, Knirk spent 15 years with the Washington state affiliate of the American Diabetes Association, where he was honored as both regional and national Executive Director of the Year.

In addition to Susan, his wife of 40 years, he is survived by two sons and two granddaughters.

A celebration of his life and ministry is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, June 12 at St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle.

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