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David Ashley Knowles, 61, of Clinton, NC passed away Wednesday, December 20, 2023 at UNC Chapel Hill Hospital after a brave fight with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Born in Clinton, NC to the late Leo and Dixie Lavice Knowles on March 2, 1962, David was a graduate of Union High School and Wayne Community College with a degree in Industrial Engineering. David enjoyed a long and successful career as an engineer.
David is survived by his wife and high school sweetheart Katheen of 41 years; daughter Ashley Stanley and husband Ernie; son Max Knowles and wife Sydney all of Clinton, NC. He is known as “Ba” to two grandchildren which were his favorite thing in life, Eva Rose Stanley and Leo Knowles. He was anxiously awaiting the birth of his third grandchild Amelia in the spring. David – the baby in his family – was blessed to have two loving siblings Sandra Knowles of Clinton, NC, and Rick Knowles along with wife Susan of Conover, NC. Rick’s son Tyler, wife Meagan, and their children Eliza and Hunter live in Raleigh, NC.
A life-altering injury 25 years ago resulted in quadriplegia for David, but what could have caused him to drop his head spurred an unwavering ability to make the most of his life on earth. With an ever-present trust in God no matter the circumstances, David stood tall in his chair and made the most of every day. He never complained and always had an open ear to listen and encourage others. For him, a great day consisted of quiet time with the Lord, time with his family, catching up on the Pack Pride message board, productiveness on his computer managing his family and farming business finances, good food, an afternoon pitching lesson, and some Atlanta Braves baseball at night.
David’s greatest joy and pride in life were his children. Daughter Ashley excelled in academics and David enjoyed every achievement, competition, and award. Son Max was an accomplished pitcher which took David all over the East coast following him always offering encouragement and advice. Nothing made his chest bigger or produced a more beaming smile than talking about his exceptional children. Becoming a grandparent added an even deeper love to David’s life. Friday night sleepovers and Saturday morning breakfasts with Eva Rose and Leo were always the highlight of his week.
A lover of the outdoors, David enjoyed hunting, fishing, and sunny afternoons outside with his dogs watching rabbits, squirrels, and an occasional deer. The climax of every year was the annual family vacation to North Topsail Beach - a trip that he meticulously started planning every January.
David developed a love for coaching when his son Max began playing little league baseball and football. He was present at every practice and game always encouraging young players to do their best. David wanted excellence, but excellence for him was when a player had given their best no matter their skill level. After his injury, David’s coaching time was in his backyard with Max where the two of them worked tireless hours perfecting fastballs, curveballs, and changeups.
Once Max went away to college, David’s love for coaching continued with pitching lessons at his home, and in 2008 he become a volunteer football and baseball coach at Union High School. If a player wanted to learn and was willing to put in the work, David was willing to put in the time. While the initial goal was to improve as an athlete, David always seemed to care more about molding his students into strong young men who were equipped to make responsible choices and be successful in life. Often when he talked specifically about a student, their athletic ability was never mentioned; it was more about their needs as a person, and what could be done to help them. David made many lifetime friends as a coach, and that meant the world to him.
A celebration of David’s life will be held on Tuesday, December 26, 2023 at 3:00 pm at Bethany Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, 1068 Rackley Road, Clinton, NC. Visitation will be at the church prior to the celebration at 2:00 pm and at David’s home, 51 River Road, Clinton, NC at other times. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Bethany Church, PO Box 2008, Clinton, NC 28329.