His son spoke at length about the impact his father had on his life. A best friend talked about growing up together. A granddaughter tearfully remembered all the good times they had. Two elected officials reflected on all the things that he had done for the Mount Vernon community. And a fellow community member worried that he made him work too hard.
These speakers, along with a couple of hundred other people, all gathered to pay their final respects to John (Jack) Fielder Knowles at Aldersgate United Methodist Church last weekend. Knowles died suddenly on July 31.
Reverend Steve Vineyard officiated at the ceremony reading passages from Ecclesiastes and James. Vineyard said that the music was chosen by the family, and said, "The music is an important part of this service, because it was an important part of Jack's life." Organist Liz Miller played Chopin's "Prelude (Opus 28);" Debussy's "Clair de lune;" Chopin's "Prelude in B Minor;" and Liszts' "Liebestraum."
Vineyard's message, "Works Done with Gentleness," spoke about the recurring theme of how gentle Knowles was.
"He was a kind and gentle man. He knew he could make a difference, and so he did. He was wise and understanding. The sign that he was cared for is this large gathering of people here," said Vineyard.
Knowles' son, John Knowles, spoke of his father's upbringing, his love of music and the family's travels around the world. He touched upon his father's involvement with public education.
"Only during the past few weeks can I appreciate the extent and magnitude of his involvement in education," said the son.
MOUNT VERNON DISTRICT Supervisor Gerry Hyland had just returned from a trip to California after taking the red eye flight. He said when a friend asked what the rush was [to return to Mount Vernon], he told him that he needed to be back for "a very special friend."
"He [Jack] was a very special person to all the people I represent in Mount Vernon," said Hyland. "What describes Jack? He was passionate, dedicated, committed and caring. In the past 16 years, I can't think of another person who has done so much for so many."
Hyland closed by thanking Jack's wife, Frances, and her family, "for sharing him with us."
Fairfax County School Board Chair Isis Castro, remembered how she and Jack drove together to school board work sessions for two years.
"He spent that time to take my ears and bend them," she said. "He was the best advocate for Mount Vernon schools we ever had. We will miss him, miss his advocacy."