Nov. 5, 1928 – Oct. 11, 2017
Gene Knecht, fondly known as “Coach,” died peacefully at his residence Oct. 11, 2017, at the age of 88. A memorial church service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchitoches, LA, 533 Second St. The Rev. Suzanne Wolfenbarger will officiate with an homily presented by the Rev. Richard Taylor. Interment will be at Memory Lawn Cemetery, Hwy 6, Natchitoches, following the service.
Visitation with the family will be Friday, Oct. 13 from 5-8 p.m. at Blanchard St. Denis funeral home in Natchitoches.
Gene was born in Ocean Springs, Miss., Nov. 5, 1928. He grew up in New Orleans and after graduating from Warren Easton High School, he earned an athletic scholarship to Louisiana Tech in Ruston. A truly gifted athlete, Gene lettered in both track and football. While attending college at LA Tech, he won numerous football honors as an elite running back, and after graduation was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams professional football team.
His accomplishments in track and field events included success in sprints and relays as well as a Gulf States Conference title throwing the javelin.
Rather than pursuing a professional football career, Gene decided to marry the love of his life, Dorothy Roig, and start his family and career as a high school football coach. Coach Knecht began both his family and the Coushatta High School football program in 1952. Starting the first football program at Coushatta was a source of pride for Coach Knecht and while at Coushatta High, “Coach” won several district championships and mentored numerous high school athletes who became college football players themselves.
His pride was unbounded when he and his wife added three sons to their family, Gene Jr., Jim and Brett. His successful coaching career continued after moving to Winnsboro to accept the head football coach position at Winnsboro High School. Gene and Dot also added their fourth child, a daughter, Pam, and remained in Winnsboro until accepting a job as a defensive assistant football coach at Northwestern State College in Natchitoches in 1961. He continued to coach at Northwestern for 18 years and held the title of Defensive Coordinator for the Demons until his retirement in 1978.
Gene, or “Coach,” as many knew him, was especially proud to be a member of the coaching staff of the undefeated 1966 National Championship football team at Northwestern. His love for Northwestern State University never wavered and Gene remained an avid and loyal Demon fan and supporter until his death. He always claimed that he “bled Demon purple,” and refused to believe otherwise.
After his retirement, Coach was able to enjoy his favorite pastimes, fishing and hunting, which he did with his family, friends and occasionally alone in his trusty Duracraft boat. His times on the river and lakes were so special to him and to the many folks who were on the receiving end of his successful fishing trips.
Gene was preceded in death by his parents, Lawrence E. and Florence M. Knecht, and his six siblings.
He is survived by his loving wife of 67 years, Dorothy Roig Knecht; his four grateful children, Eugene V. Knecht Jr. and wife Judy, James D. Knecht, M.D., and wife Elizabeth, Brett O. Knecht and wife Darlene, and Pam K. Singletary and husband John. He also leaves behind 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren who have always looked up to their grandfather as their hero and inspiration in life.
The family would like to express their sincere appreciation to Dr. Otis Barnum, Dr. Manish Dhawan and Dr. Ajaya Tummala. In addition, special thanks are extended to Ms. Iris Jean Gay and Ms. Catherine Harris for their loving care and dedication to Coach and Mrs. Dot.
Pallbearers for the service will be Brad Knecht, Matthew Knecht, John Singletary III, Landon Knecht, Darron Leach, Ricky Dugas, Welles Fitzpatrick and Ji Theriot.
Honorary pallbearers are Jerry Smith, Sen. Don Kelly, Coach John Ropp, Coach Johnnie Emmons, Loran Lindsey and all former football players whose lives were touched by Coach Knecht.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.