Meet Jack & Donna of Shepherd of Grace. Many people are born with gifts. Jack Knothe was born with the gift of teaching; although he retired some years ago, he still loves to teach today through conversation. It doesn’t take long during a conversation to witness Jack’s love and passion for teaching. Being a voracious reader, he is also a perpetual learner.
Jack was born and grew up in Winona, Minnesota. His dad worked for IBM in the 20’s working with punch cards and doing data processing. His mom was a housewife and worked in a ladies’ shop prior to getting married. Jack was an only child and enjoyed participating in all types of sports and extra-curricular activities during his school years.
Donna also grew up in Winona; however, she and Jack didn’t start dating until they met through a Church youth group while attending college at Winona State. Donna also grew up an only child and developed an early love for teaching as well. She loved to play school with her cousins and of course she was the teacher. Her parents operated a truck garden where they sold vegetables on a stand or out of a parked truck.
Jack and Donna started dating when Jack was a Junior and Donna was a Sophomore in college. They dated a couple years and when Jack graduated, he went into the military. They got married during Jack’s second year in the service and when Donna graduated from college. They were stationed at the Naval base in Grosse Ile, Michigan. Donna taught at a school a few miles off base and Jack used his teaching degree in Admin. Jack served for two years Active Duty and four years in the Reserve.
After the military, they settled in Rushford, Minnesota (about 20 miles from Winona). Jack went back to school for his Master’s Degree and Donna taught at the local high school. After graduation, Jack took a job teaching Social Studies for 6th grade through College at Montevideo. He also worked 14 years as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for a school district placing mentally and physically challenged young students in work settings.
Jack taught a total of 36 years (including his time in the military it was 40 years) during his career. Donna taught for four years during her career. Together they had three beautiful children. Karla is married and lives in St. Cloud. She and James have three children, 1 boy and 2 girls. Kent is married and lives in Becker. He and Pam have three girls including twins. Kirtes is married and lives in Stillwater. He and Linda have 1 boy and 2 girls. This totals 9 grandchildren and they have 14 great grandchildren. They love their big family. One of their favorite family traditions was to have the whole family together for the Christmas holidays. They had a ton of presents and Donna would decorate their house like a Christmas store, with every room full of decorations. She was an avid collector and had over 300+ Santa Claus figurines in all shapes and sizes.
Jack and Donna did a lot of camping when the kids were small. It was the most economical way to travel on teacher’s salaries. In 1986, they started taking bus trips to Alaska, Nova Scotia, Churchill Manitoba, Hudson Bay, James Bay and Florida. They also took 5-6 mystery tours out West. Some of the farthest trips included Parish Holidays in England where they would help with refurbishing Churches and would stay with local families, dining at different houses in the villages each night. They did these trips in London, Germany and Austria where they also found Christmas markets in many towns, adding to Donna’s Christmas collections. They enjoyed some winter trips to Mexico as well.
Some of the most memorable trips for Jack included taking a group of Boy Scouts to the Boundary Waters in the 1950’s for a “High Adventure” and joining 28,000 Scouts at the National Jamboree in Cor de Laine, Idaho. He loved Idaho so much, he brought his family back the next year and attended the World’s Fair in Spokane Washington, which wasn’t too far from there.
Jack didn’t slow down much in early retirement. He stayed busy splitting wood, became very active with the American Legion (lifelong member and Commander, Legion Chaplain, Memorial Squad for funerals and put 1400 flags at 16 cemeteries for Memorial and Veteran’s Day), taught Bible study and Confirmation class and was a Guardian ad Litem for the courts, advocating for abused and neglected children in the court system. Donna was active as well with the Legion Ladies Auxiliary, holding the position of President for three years.
In later retirement, both Donna and Jack have been avid readers. Recently they have moved into Shepherd of Grace Senior Community. Jack lives in an apartment and Donna lives in memory care. They love being close to one another and they are closer to two of their children, who help them out when needed. Jack loves to continue learning through conversations and connections. He is looking forward to getting to know more of the tenants and residents.
We are proud that Jack and Donna call Shepherd of Grace home.