QUINCY — Harold Knapheide III, president of Knapheide Manufacturing Co. since 1978, died at 6:55 p.m. Tuesday evening at his home. He was 72.
Knapheide, affectionately known as “Knap,” was a business and civic leader in Quincy who oversaw the expansion of the family company into one of the largest U.S. producers of service and utility truck bodies. In addition, he shared his time and financial support with important community causes.
Mayor Kyle Moore said Knapheide did many things behind the scenes to help the community.
“First and foremost he was somebody who loved Quincy and wanted to see everyone succeed,” Moore said. “He would go to bat for a new idea. He could have done business anywhere in the U.S., but he chose Quincy.”
Founded in 1848, Knapheide Manufacturing was launched by Knap's great-great-grandfather, Heinrich Knapheide, who emigrated to Quincy from Germany. The company started in a blacksmith shop where horse-drawn wooden wagons were built. As wagons changed and vehicles came into use, the company made the transition to a variety of utility beds for trucks, vans and other vehicles.
Knapheide led the company through many changes. Once a business based primarily on agriculture, Knapheide adjusted to business demands and overcome many obstacles, including devastating floods in 1973 and 1993 that affected the company's West Quincy, Mo., facility. After the 1993 flood, the company built its major manufacturing plant on Quincy's north side. The company now has a 668,000-square-foot manufacturing plant at 1848 Westphalia Strasse, northeast of 24th and Koch's Lane. The company has about 1,500 employees locally and 2,100 nationwide.
Ron Brink of R.L. Brink Corp., said: “I have great respect for him. I've dealt with Knap for 40-some years, and I found him to be an outstanding businessman. We did a lot of business together and didn't need a contract because of the kind of man Knap was.”
Thomas A. Oakley, former publisher of The Herald-Whig said Knapheide did much of his work anonymously.
“He wasn't looking for recognition. He did a lot of things behind the scenes and had a great impact,” Oakley said.
Marcel Wagner Jr., president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, said Knapheide's death will be felt throughout the region.
“Communities can't measure the impact of a person like Mr. Knapheide. His influence and the company he led has tremendous impact on thousands of lives,” Wagner said.
Knapheide was a civic leader as well as an industrialist. Knapheide was involved in the Quincy Area Projects and Neighborhood Federation, Quincy Family YMCA, the Indian Mounds Pool renovation and countless other projects. He and his wife, Ann, have been honored for support of area Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Knapheide founded the John Quincy Adams Leadership Association 30 years ago. That organization's membership has donated millions of dollars to the United Way campaigns.
Debbie Reed, president and CEO of Chaddock, said: “Knap was a quiet giant for children and youth across our community. We were proud to recognize his faithful commitment by honoring him with the Harry and Carlene Geisler Friend of Children Award in 2009. One of his many legacies is the lasting impact he made for the children and families we serve.”
Knapheide took a lead in involvement in Quincy and encouraged his employees to do the same.
“I'm proud of the people in our company who help in our community,” Knapheide said when he won the Joe Bonansinga Award from the United Way of Adams County in 2008.
State Sen. Jil Tracy said Knapheide always made time to meet with people, especially when looking for ways to build and grow the community. She said Knapheide also loved his country.
“I'm always in awe when I drive by his Koch's Lane location. The beautiful presence of the American flags and 'One Nation Under God' speak volumes as to the type of man Knap was. He loved his family and employees. He was tall in stature and tall in integrity, great values and compassion for others,” Tracy said.
Laura Sievert, executive director of Arts Quincy, said Knapheide left an indelible imprint on the arts community.
“He had an amazing ability to think bigger about how supporting the creative institutions of Quincy would create a more vibrant and engaging community for us all. What's more, is he did this all in the most humble of manners. He taught us all how to give generously and selflessly for the betterment of our community,” Sievert said.
Knapheide was a 1963 graduate of Quincy High School and was inducted into the QHS Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions as a two-year letterman on the basketball team, with 230 points scored for the Blue Devils when he was a junior and 460 as a senior.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 3, at Knapheide Manufacturing, 2825 Koch's Lane, with the Revs. Chuck Hetzler, Josh Vahle and Bruce Rice conducting. Burial will be in Woodland Cemetery.
Visitation will be from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, at First Union Congregational Church, 12th and Maine.
Memorials may be made to the Quincy Neighborhood Federation, the Quincy Public Schools Foundation, First Union Congregational Church or the Quincy Family YMCA.
Hansen-Spear Funeral Home is handling arrangements.