Canyon Lake loses a legend

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Carolyn Knight, the first editor of The Friday Flyer and community advocate, died Tuesday after battling major health issues her entire adult life. Carolyn was the editor of the newspaper for 25 years before retiring in 2007.

“Carolyn cared more about her fellow man than she ever did about herself,” The Friday Flyer publisher Chuck Golding said. “Throughout her life, she advocated for others and, consequently, changed their lives. The Friday Flyer was her baby, but there was much more to this great lady than the paragraphs she crafted in our newspaper.”

Carolyn’s first major crusade was covered by CBS’s 60 Minutes with Harry Reasoner and included testifying before Congress. She had almost died nine different times after ingesting sulfites to which she was allergic. Along with Michael Jacobsen, the founder for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, she sued the bureau of AFT and ultimately got wine labeled. Her efforts also resulted in regulations requiring notices at places like salad bars and Chinese restaurants. Her story is told in a book she authored, Canary in a Coal Mine.

Her lungs were damaged from these sulfites and she had her first of many near-death visits to emergency rooms as a result.

This first historical advocacy landed her many honors, including receiving a bronze plaque at the Staples Center and being named Riverside County’s “Distinguished Woman of the Year” by the YWCA and other civic groups.

Later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and met the challenge head on, with bravery and dignity. After a successful mastectomy, she advocated for other women with the same cancer. She was one of the founders of the support group “Bosom Buddies,” an organization for which she was particularly proud.

She became active in the Susan G. Komen Foundation and other cancer awareness programs. She was honored as Riverside County’s “Local Hero” in a fund-raising event hosted by BMW of Riverside’s “Drive for the Cure” promotion.

Her sulfite-infected lungs continued to cause major health problems. For most of her later years, she made trips to the hospital and was supposedly on her death bed after major infections, but repeatedly cheated death and returned to full function in short order.

This latest trip to the hospital several months ago came after a fall resulted in a broken hip. She had hip replacement surgery, but the new hip continued to dislodge. Her health quickly deteriorated, but she was determined to keep one last promise. Although flat on her back on a hospital gurney, she attended her granddaughter Hannah’s wedding last month. Shortly thereafter, her hip became infected and, living with her daughter Meri Faria in Murrieta, passed away surrounded by her family on Tuesday morning.

Carolyn was born on Oct. 6, 1944 in Kansas City, Missouri. She would later marry Vick Knight, the director of development at Children’s Hospital of Orange County where she worked as his intern in the communications department. They married after a 3-year courtship on June 6, 1981. That same year, the newlyweds moved to Canyon Lake. Carolyn brought to Canyon Lake her two daughters from a previous marriage, Kathy, who was crowned Miss Canyon Lake later that year, and Meri, who attended the local high school. Her children and the subsequent grandchildren were her and Vick’s joy.

“Of all my accomplishments,” Carolyn would say on several occasions, “the best thing I ever did was to have Kathy and Meri.”

Despite her post-high school education being cut short after getting married at age 18, Carolyn had set a goal to obtain her college degree. After 14 years of study, she obtained her BA in American Studies at California State University at Fullerton.

Writing has always been in Carolyn’s blood. While in junior high school she had an extra elective available to her. She said her mother suggested taking a journalism class. From there she was named the editor of her junior high school newspaper as well as her high school and Long Beach college newspapers. She continued to write professionally at Smith International and Carl Karcher Enterprises. Later, she would write corporate histories for these companies.

“When my husband Vick and I moved to Canyon Lake in 1981, I decided it would be a good time to retire after years of being a corporate editor in Orange County,” she said in an article she authored celebrating the 25th year of The Friday Flyer. “With my teen-aged daughters still at home, I’d spend time making memories, we’d buy a boat, spend afternoons lounging at one of the beaches and purchase a golf cart to explore our new, sleepy little community. Little did I know that I’d actually be embarking on a new decades-long career.”

Indeed, after being asked to edit The Canyon Lake Home Owners Club’s newsletter, a series of events led to her becoming the editor and part owner of The Friday Flyer, a newspaper converted in 1990 from a single sheet handed out at the gates every Friday. She wrote almost the entire content of the newspaper for the next 25 years. Upon her retirement, she named her assistant editor, Sharon Rice, as her replacement, who remained in the position until she moved to Mexico last year.

“Although many Canyon Lakers didn’t know Carolyn personally,” Sharon said, “they benefitted from her professionalism and commitment to the community as co-owner and first editor of The Friday Flyer. I benefitted more than anyone else when she hired me as a reporter and became my journalistic mentor in 1996. She eventually entrusted me with the position of editor in 2007.

“I am indebted to Carolyn for everything I learned from her, for the career I enjoyed for 20 years, and for the remarkable friendship she and Vick offered me. I already miss her!”

Carolyn’s role as the mouthpiece for Canyon Lake brought with it many controversies, but mostly admiration and friendships.

“Since we started our movie column in 2004, Carolyn had become a valued mentor and one of our very dear friends,” Leigh and Ron Martel said. “We are heartbroken and will miss her, but truly blessed to have known such an accomplished and caring person.”

And Pastor Pete Van Dyke said, “Canyon Lake has lost one of its icons in the passing of Carolyn Knight. Through the many years that I had known Carolyn I saw and experienced firsthand a friend that was dedicated and determined in all her endeavors.”

Carolyn was preceded in death by her husband of 35 years, Vick Knight. She is survived by her two daughters and four grandchildren: Daughter Kathy (and John)Blakemore and their daughter Carlee. Daughter Meri (and Skylar) Faria and their children Hannah, Skylar Jr. and Madison. She also claims Vick’s children as her own: Daughter Mary (and Mike) Frauenthal and their daughter Gini Frauenthal. Granddaughters Molly Knight and Sarah Stowell.

Carolyn requested that no funeral services be held, but rather at some point in the future a more informal gathering of celebration. Her family has yet to set the date and location for this event and will announce it later.

Carolyn has always been an advocate for advanced education and has asked The Friday Flyer to sponsor and fund a scholarship for a local high school graduate who will be attending college seeking a journalism or writing degree. This first scholarship will be awarded at the conclusion of the next school year.

“Carolyn is a fixture here in this community and will not be forgotten,” The Friday Flyer publisher Chuck said. “This scholarship is a small token to help ensure this is the case. We know Carolyn, in spirit, will attend these award ceremonies where the Carolyn Knight Memorial Scholarship is given each year to a recipient most made in her mold.”

 

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