In 1950, newlyweds Herb and Glenna Knape built a small house on Fisk Lake with one bedroom and a nursery. By 1960, both the house and the family had grown… the house to five bedrooms, and the family to seven children… all within nine and a half years.
Judy, Mary Lou, John, Jim, Bill, Betsy, and Bob. “It was busy,” Glenna said, remembering a time with three children in cribs. “Those were definitely very busy years.”
Still living in the house they built 53 years ago, the Knapes today say they couldn’t imagine raising their children in a better neighborhood, or living in a better community. They say their greatest legacy, by far, is their seven children and 16 grandchildren (14 boys and two girls).
The Knapes have chosen to enrich that legacy by establishing a tradition of giving that their children will someday be able to continue.
“We appreciate all the good things we have been able to enjoy,” said Herb. “We realize others need financial help, and we can afford to help… I was raised with the idea that everyone’s got to give something.”
One of the many ways the Knapes give back to their community is through a donor advised fund at Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Today, the fund allows them to organize their charitable giving. In the future, it will allow their children to continue their parents’ legacy of giving.
“I was familiar with the Community Foundation because Fred Vogt was active way back when I worked at Knape & Vogt,” Herb said. “The Foundation offers good ways to set up your charitable giving as a program… and I like the idea of perpetuating it with the family.”
Their family roots are firmly planted in West Michigan. Except for his time as a student and with the Army, Herb has lived all his life in East Grand Rapids. Glenna was originally from Ionia. They met in Fruitport at the Big Band pavilion in 1947, just three years after Herb graduated from MIT. They were engaged in 1948, and married in 1949.
Shortly after they married, Herb left his job as a project engineer at Jarecki Machine and Tool Company and went to work for Knape & Vogt, the firm founded by his grandfather. He worked there for 10 years before starting Knape Industries, a firm that paints and finishes metal and plastic components for the automobile, furniture and lighting industries.
“I was ready to work for myself,” Herb said. “Build something of my own.”
Today, they spend most of their time and energy with their family. Herb is an avid photographer, recording all the smiles at family gatherings with his digital camera. “I can go home and print out the pictures that very night,” he said. “He takes that camera everywhere,” said Glenna.
Many of the family pictures include young people on deck, as Herb and Glenna have passed on their love of sailing to both children and grandchildren. Daughter Judy, once a lawyer, is now a boat captain in the Caribbean. Several of their grandchildren, who learned to sail on Fisk Lake, now compete in regattas at Spring Lake Yacht Club.
Through their donor advised fund, the Knapes hope to pass on their love of giving as well. When the fund passes to the next generation, all seven children will be able to work together to recommend grants to their, and their parents’, favorite causes.
Glenna summed up their goal for the fund simply.
“I hope that they learn the same of joy of giving and helping that we have.”