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Lloyd Waters: Dargan's gatekeeper headed to heaven

August 04, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

At the top of Lock Hill, directly across the way from the Mad Dog Saloon, sits the home of Whylmenia M. Knight. With her house situated between two roads that lead into Dargan, Whylmenia was the “gatekeeper” for all visitors to our tiny community.

Whylmenia, who died last week at the age of 91, saw a lot of things from her front porch at the top of that long hill. When she was born in 1921, Warren Harding was president of the United States, War World I had ended and Adolf Hitler became chairman of the Nazi Party in Germany.

The Great Depression was around the corner.

Whylmenia’s life had many chapters. She married her sweetheart, Francis “Skunk” Knight, in 1940 and they had a storied marriage for some 61 years. She spoke and he listened; the makings of a happy marriage.

Skunk was a Navy veteran who reminded me a lot of “Popeye the Sailor Man.” With his raspy voice and small frame, he was always full of energy.

I think he even liked spinach.

As a kid, I would hang out with Skunk and Whylmenia’s youngest boy, Orville Lee. He and I were childhood friends who went to school together and played baseball on the school ground of Dargan. When we joined the Antietam-Dargan Little League team, Skunk would drive us around the neighborhood to deliver the Grit newspaper before the baseball games.  After the game, win or lose, we would always end up in Whylmenia’s kitchen for some dessert.

She was a great cook.

Whylmenia had four kids officially; Doris, Cookie, Dave and Orville Lee. She had one kid, “Wanda,” unofficially for 21 years and more than a few “wannabe” kids who always seemed to be hanging out at the Knights’ house. Timmy, Junnie (the Duckman), Tina and Ernie were there pretty often. Jan, Kim, and beautiful Michele were not too far away.

In her 91 years of life, Whylmenia touched a lot of people. As a mother, she experienced many tragedies but wore her sorrow well.

April 1969 was a most difficult time for her, when she received news that Orville Lee had stepped on a land mine in Vietnam.  A mother who loses a child to war is never the same.

She would visit his grave every week, and her thoughts of him were always near.

1997 was another tough year for Whylmenia, when she lost her second son, David, to cancer.

It always seems a little unnatural for a child to die before a parent, but death is obligated to no certain rules.

In 1999, she was once again touched by tragedy when Skunk died after dealing with several medical issues.

In 2005, Orville Lee’s daughter, Samantha, also died.

Throughout those tragic experiences, she managed to persevere and maintain her dignity.

Her strength amidst those many storms of life was remarkable. She loved her family and traveled down the path of each challenge with their help.

In her last months, she could be seen riding through the neighborhood with Doris. The Gold Star Mother made her appearances at the local Memorial Day parade in Sharpsburg and waved proudly from her seat of honor.

She was a special lady who was admired and loved by all.

Whylmenia always referred to Orville Lee and myself as her “outlaws.” This term never escaped her memory until near the very end. It was a favorite saying of hers, which I believe took her back to those days of joy and happiness, and a better time before sadness knocked at her door.

Whylmenia Knight was for sure Dargan’s gatekeeper.

She was most fond of her community and even more proud of her family. She always had an extra plate at her table for her many friends.

Whylmenia is going to be missed, but even God needs a good gatekeeper. R.I.P. “Willie.” We love you. Your outlaw, Pete.


Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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