Yukon pays tribute to historian

John Knuppel (7/9/1927 – 12/13/2020) remembered for community advocacy

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Longtime historian John Knuppel, shown here in a January 2019 photo, is being hailed for his contributions that helped make Yukon a special place. Knuppel recently passed away at age 93. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar

Senior Staff Writer

Many longtime residents are paying tribute to a Yukon historian and community advocate.

A U.S. Navy veteran who was president of the Yukon Historical Society for many years, John Knuppel died Dec. 13 at the age of 93.

Knuppel moved to Yukon in 1973 with wife Carol and family, leaving an indelible mark during the 47 years he lived here. Those who knew Knuppel recognize the invaluable service he provided to help make Yukon a special place.

“Yukon lost a very good person who wanted a lot for Yukon so people could enjoy the town,” YNB Bank President Randy Wright said. “John meant a lot to the town. His heart was always in Yukon.”

Knuppel was a dedicated volunteer at the Yukon Historical Society Museum, Yukon Railroad Museum and Yukon Farm Museum; and member of the Yukon American Legion.

Veteran Yukon realtor and former band teacher Larry Taylor first got to know Knuppel in 1992 when Taylor joined the Yukon City Council and later served several years as mayor.

“It’s a real loss,” Taylor said of Knuppel’s passing. “John had great knowledge of the town which I used while I was in office.

“He taught me how to remember the first five street names in Yukon: ‘MEMOP’ – Main, Elm, Maple, Oak and Poplar. He told me that, and I never have forgot it.”

Taylor previously served with Knuppel on the Yukon Centennial Committee, which organized the town’s 100th birthday celebration in 1991. Taylor got to know the Yukon historian during 26 years of volunteer service to the City of Yukon.

“He always had a smile on his face and a handshake,” Taylor shared. “Anything he could do to help people, he would.”

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YUKON STATE OF MIND

Besides his many civic contributions, Knuppel worked for decades at YNB Bank in downtown Yukon. Wright said he’ll be missed by so many people.

“John and his wife had Yukon in mind in everything they did,” Wright said. “The museum, the mill, the railroad, and we could go ‘on and on and on’ about the items they not only supported but did the work for.

“It’s going to be hard to think of Yukon without John being here anymore. He was great at the bank, not just as an employee but as a friend to many of us. It’s going to be sad not having him around.”

Knuppel was instrumental in establishing the Yukon Veterans Memorial at the Yukon Cemetery, site of a traditional Memorial Day ceremony since the mid-‘90s.

“John was a great benefactor to the veterans,” said Taylor, who always plays “Taps” on his trumpet to end the ceremony. “He and his wife both were great people to the city.”

Knuppel also was a past Oklahoma Czechs Inc. volunteer and grand parade marshal.

“John was a decent and respected friend to all those he touched,” said Terry Beaver, a past Oklahoma Czech Festival parade chairman. “He will truly be missed and not forgotten.”

For his efforts, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce named Knuppel its “Citizen of the Year”. His volunteer work included helping re-light the iconic Yukon’s Best Flour sign.

As part of his civic service, Knuppel spent several years on the City of Yukon’s Traffic Commission.

A past Yukon mayor, local realtor Genie Vinson recalls Knuppel being a frequent face in the audience at city council meetings for many years.

“John was a real hard worker and he was just real nice – all the time,” Vinson said. “He was consistent, and he was always there, ready to help whenever needed.

“After I got off the city council (in 2001), I really enjoyed being able to sit with him at council meetings and compare notes. John was just a nice guy to be around and talk to.”

A retired Oklahoma City firefighter, Knuppel was the department’s official photographer and the first curator of the Oklahoma Firefighters Museum in Oklahoma City.