OCTOBER 14, 2009


Interviewed by: Mike Robinson

Interviewer’s note: Dorothy Knoop, widow of Mark Knoop, is the last surviving member of the Knoop family still residing in the Miami Valley, whose history is well documented in the Archives of the Troy Historical Society and the Troy History Library. Due to the abundance of the existing historical record and by pre-arrangement with Mrs. Knoop, our discussion was limited to (1) her early years, meeting and marrying Mr. Knoop with the resultant move to Troy; (2) World War II and the family agricultural contributions to the war effort; and (3) significant friendships with other noted Troy community leaders during the 20th century.

By her own account, Dorothy Kercher Knoop was a “city girl”, born March 16, 1916 in Shaker Heights- Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Henry Kircher and Jeannette Good Kircher; Mr. Kircher was a prominent bridge engineer, while her grandfather was a practicing M.D. As a young girl, the family moved to Hyde Park, Cincinnati due to her engineer father’s engagement by the Central Bridge Company of Cincinnati to direct construction of an Ohio River suspension bridge, and she spent her formative years in and around that city. Two significant events occurred soon after her high school graduation- the choice of Western College in Oxford, Ohio to pursue her study of art (a lifelong interest) and her chance meeting of Mark Knoop, a student of the University of Wisconsin, in Oxford to visit a mutual friend Miami U. student. There was an immediate attraction between Mark and Dorothy, and the two were married April 16, 1939.

Early in their married life, the Knoops settled in the historical family home on Lost Creek at State Route 41, now occupied by the Lost Creek Reserve and Knoop Heritage Center. Prior generations of Knoops had acquired considerable acreage in and around this location and Mr. Knoop assumed management of the vast agricultural operation, as well as serving as the general manager for Trojan Farms, Incorporated, a consortium of additional farms and acreage owned partially by the Knoops in conjunction with other investors.

Mark and Dorothy’s social life prior to World War II included friendships with Troy couples whose names are a veritable Who’s Who of leaders of the city’s commerce and industry. They include Bill and Marilyn Houser, who lived nearby on Sayers Road on the Old Pony Farm, Mr. And Mrs. Bond Houser Jr, of The Troy Sunshade Company David Meekers, Bob and Helga Meeker (now living in Offenberg, Germany) and all the Meeker family members were good friends. David Spencers and the Hal Willis’ (Hobart Manufacturing) Arthur Rashers (?), the Paul Herrlingers (Gum Products) and Franklin Shipmans (prominent local corporate attorney), the Howells, the Bravos, and the Allens were also included in the group. They also had close friends in Piqua- the Orrs and Frenchs.

Beginning with 1942 and America’s entry into World War II, the family’s focus changed, as did that of most Troy families. The farming operation- both their personally owned acreage and that of Trojan Farms, was of considerable importance to the federal government in its tasks of feeding a growing overseas military operation, starving Europeans and those of the domestic needs at home. While Mr. Knoop may have had regrets by not serving the nation in uniform, his contribution to the war effort directing the farming operations was of far greater value. Even with domestic farming at full capacity, strict food rationing was imposed on the population and severe quota pressures were placed on Mr. Knoop for production, production, production! In February, the Knoops celebrated the birth of their first child, Rebecca Jayne.

The Knoops entertained extensively compared to today’s standards. There was at least one dinner party or coctail party a week at someone’s house. In fact, with the Knoop’s living room directly under Rebecca’s bedroom, it’s a wonder the girl got any sleep at all on party nights with the roars of laughter emanating from the group. The Knoops also had an annual Labor Day Picnic at Lost Creek Farm or at Don Scott’s in Casstown, where all the friends and their kids would meet for a huge potluck. The family also belonged to the Troy Country Club (which some of the children found enormously boring), where they would gather to meet Santa at Christmas time, watch fireworks on the 4th of July, and swim in the summer. In later years they were also members of the Racquet Club and Piqua Country Club. Mrs. Knoop fondly recalled the frequent parties and picnics at the Knoop farm and also at the homes of the couples, a truly happy time in their young lives.

The war years were hectic for Dorothy. In addition to the new baby, she was heavily involved in her role as a “Gray Lady”, assisting wounded local servicemen who had been returned stateside for treatment in local hospitals, and also helping as she could the young families that they were affected by the injuries of these men.

Following the war, Dorothy was preparing for another child- Elizabeth, born in April 1947. A son, John, was born in May 1948. Rebecca moved to Europe in 1969, after having lived in Dallas and San Francisco, upon graduation from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1964. After living in Paris, she moved to London, where she met and married Oliver Shepard, a Coldstream Guardsman of the Queen. The Shepards have alternated their lives between England and France ever since, with France as their permanent residence. Elizabeth married Thomas Herrlinger, son of Paul Herrlinger of Troy in 1967. John died tragically at eighteen years of age in 1966.

With her Gray Lady work completed, Dorothy was finally able to return to her other passion- art and travel! In spare moments, she could always be found painting, both in oil and watercolors. As the children became more self-reliant, she and Mark frequently visited France, England, and other overseas destinations. Italy was one of Dorothy’s favorites, especially Naples. The couple, in later life, took many cruises- to the Fjords, New Zealand, and Australia. Mr. Knoop traveled even more extensively during his years with the American Cattlemen’s Association, going to South America and even China (before normal tourism existed there).

Dorothy’s favorite passion was, however, Czarist Russia. Her father gave her a book about the Czarina, who was assassinated along with her husband and all of her children by the Bolsheviks, and Dorothy would thereafter read every single book written about this tragic family. Although she might not admit it, she is practically a world expert on the subject. She has always been a prolific reader (historical books, biographies and autobiographies no novels for her! She has easily read a book a week over her entire life- that’s a lot of books! A lifelong interest in world history and geography, especially Russia, resulted in much study of these subjects and frequent travel to both Europe and the Soviet Union, in her quest to learn more about these far-away countries. In addition to accompanying Mark in his domestic travel in connection with his cattle operations and meetings, Dorothy was one busy lady!

In later years, with the children grown and now a grandmother, Dorothy settled into a more relaxed life at the farm. Upon Mark’s retirement, and with health problems, he moved to the Dorothy Love Retirement Home in Sidney with Dorothy accompanying him. Mark died in 2006, and Dorothy continues to reside there, enjoying the company of her many family members, friends and visitors.

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