Mary Lou Knight
January 30, 1955 - May 22, 2019
Mary Lou Knight’s death was announced Wednesday, May 22. She was the beloved “baby sister” in a family of seven children – all boys except her – that was mainly raised in Pendleton, Oregon. The Knight family story hit the local Pendleton newspaper in January 1955, during Mary’s extremely difficult birth, which nearly killed her mother. The frightening story had a happy ending, as “Molly” was born exactly on her father’s birthday, January 30. A sad irony is that Mary is survived by her mother, Sara Lou Knight, 97, who lives in a retirement home in Portland, near Mary’s second-eldest brother Tom, cousin Susan, and nephew Tim – all Knights. Mary’s niece, Julie Knight Iwayama, a registered nurse in Seattle, and Sue Knight-Allen, a retired social worker in Portland, are managing funeral arrangements. Other survivors include brothers Bill Knight of Yakima, Tom Knight of Portland, Joel Knight of Union, Dee Knight of New York, David Knight of Trento, Italy, and Jim Knight of Grants Pass. Cousins, nieces and nephews abound, scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest as well as Alaska, California and Utah.
Mary grew up Catholic and had a Mexican grandmother, her Abuela Clotilde, of whom she spoke with great affection. Mary was single most of her life. Friends comment that she “seemed to always be looking for Mr. Right” – and was unwilling to settle for less than a perfect match.
Mary worked in her first career as a registered nurse for 30 years, after earning a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing at the University of Hawaii in the 1970s. During her time in Hawaii, she was both a student and a singer. She also met friends in Hawaii who introduced her to the Unitarian Universalist church, which became her spiritual home for the rest of her life. From then on, no matter where her nursing career took her – in multiple states – she was always a member of a UU congregation. She acted as a lay minister and sang in the choirs. In the 1990s she moved back to Portland to be near her aging parents and help them transition to retirement living. During this time she chose to study for the UU ministry. She earned a Masters of Divinity at Marylhurst University in Portland, and was ordained as a UU minister in 2007. She received Final Fellowship in 2012. In those years she was a regular preacher at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Hood River, Oregon. People remember her as a cheerful and sympathetic preacher, with a philosophical bent. During that time she also worked as a hospice chaplain in Tigard, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington.
Mary served for many years as a hospice chaplain: caring spiritually for individuals and their families during their last hours, days or weeks of life. She was well-suited to this work by her nursing experience, and by her cheerful and compassionate temperament. Enjoying a mixed family heritage of Mayflower descendants on her father’s side and Mexican immigrants on her mother’s, Mary delivered open-hearted sympathy and solace to all alike. Her training as a Unitarian Universalist minister enhanced her natural ability to listen to and understand the feelings of those in her care, regardless of religious background, race, class, sexual orientation, gender expression, age and physical or mental ability.
The emotional demands and costs of hospice chaplaincy are special, since the chaplain must continuously share the grief of patients and their families. Mary helped people face the prospect of death on a daily basis, so depression was a major occupational hazard.
The hospice chaplain has the job of reassuring dying patients that they will be fondly remembered. Mary Knight will be fondly remembered by the families of her many patients, as well as her colleagues in the ministry, and her large and loving extended family.
There will be a memorial service July 14 at 2pm at the First Unitarian Church of Portland, 1211 SW Main St, Portland, OR 97205.