Drive-by 'Salute to Renee Knight' set for Saturday

FILE PHOTOFrom left, Barge Canal Optimists Sarah Wright, Lisa Breese, Renee Knight and Pauline Leacock at a Joint Optimist Mixer. Club members have organized a Saturday morning "Salute to Renee Knight," a drive-by parade that serves as Knight's "going away" party, as she's preparing to move to Ohio to be closer to her daughter.

They're planning a parade in Lockport on Saturday and for the first time in quite a while, it won't involve a hands-on effort by organizer extraordinaire Renee Knight.

And there's a good reason for that: Because it's a Covid-safe parade for none other than Knight herself, one of Lockport's most beloved citizens.

Knight, a retired English teacher in the Lockport school district, a past school board trustee and a tireless leader in advancing the causes of military veterans and active-duty personnel, is moving to Ohio soon, to be near her daughter Rachel Silsdorf, and a drive-by parade past her house has been organized by her friends.

The parade, dubbed “Salute to Renee Knight,” will form outside Lockport Christian Church, 5845 Locust St.; well wishers who want to participate are asked to show up in their vehicles at 10:45 a.m. From the church, the parade will head over to Knight's house on Erna Drive.

“We want to wish Renee and Pumpkin (her rescue dog) well on their new adventure,” parade organizer Peggy Allen said. “Please include a sign on your vehicle to let Renee know who you are.”

Knight's stepson, Christopher Knight, who now resides in Saranac Lake, said one of the most striking things about Renee's decades of volunteer service in Lockport is the fact that she wasn't born and raised here.

“She grew up in Buffalo and came here to teach,” Chris Knight said. “And she was a very well-respected and loved teacher and has so many students whom she would see on a regular basis who came up to her and said such nice things. Her impact on their education and their lives as an educator was her first major impact on their lives.

“Then, over time, she got involved in all kinds of community projects and became more high profile," he said.

In addition to being an active member of the Barge Canal Optimist Club and a loyal supporter of American Legion, alongside her now-late husband David Knight, Renee Knight has been the driving force behind Lockport students' participation in the annual Veterans Day observance at Outwater Park. It's a tradition started in the late 1980s that has continued to the present. Every November 11th — except this year, thanks to Covid restrictions — she has been like the maestro directing students' recitation of "America's Answer" following an adult group reading of the war poem "In Flanders Fields."

Knight also is the one and only chairman of the 20-year-old Partnership in Patriotism Coalition, a loose affiliation of Lockport-based civic, fraternal and veterans organizations, the city, the town, the school district and the Union-Sun & Journal, together promoting recognition of military service past and present.

The coalition resulted from Knight's earlier effort to spearhead local fundraising for the national World War II Memorial, in the late 1990s, and later got behind Knight's campaign to raise local contributions toward another national monument, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. 

Naturally, Knight was heavily involved, for years, in organization of the Lockport Memorial Day parade, too.

And since she joined the Barge Canal Optimist Club 20 years ago, Peggy Allen said, she has been a real "asset" as her interests and the club's are so well aligned. Anything involving youth development, scholarship, community building and/or cancer awareness advocacy, Knight has stepped up to support, according to Allen.

Knight's daughter Rachel says her family very much appreciates the planned Saturday sendoff.

“We're really humbled by the outpouring of love by the Lockport community,” she said. “She's worked on so many causes for so long. I hope her next chapter in her life is even half as successful as her last.”

For more information about the parade, email bargecanaloptimists@gmail.com.

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