In Memoriam

Carl Knopke

Carl George Knopke, Jr.

Carl KnopkeCarl, age 66, died unexpectedly on the morning of Saturday, October 16, 2010 while hiking with longtime friends near Mt. Lassen. He had a full, active, and accomplished life. Carl is survived by his wife of 42 years, Gloria; his son Dr. Carl George Knopke III and his wife Mariel of Riverside, CA; his son Carter B. Knopke, J.D., of Washington D.C.; his twin brother Robert (Tat), his brother William, and his sister Ginger Cook, all of St. Paul, MN; and his sister Katie Bartholomew, of Yarmouth, ME.

Carl was born in Fargo, ND on July 13, 1944 to Carl and Avery Knopke, who predeceased him. He grew up primarily in New Ulm, MN, where at a young age he developed a passion for the outdoors, hiking, and canoeing. In 1960, he traveled 830 miles by canoe over 28 days, with his brother Tat and friends, from the Continental Divide in British Columbia to Fort Vermilion on the northern prairies of Alberta.

In 1968 Carl graduated from The United States Air Force Academy, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Economics and was a member of the varsity gymnastics team. He married Gloria Fesenmaier on December 29, 1968. He served his country at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, and Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base in Saigon.

Upon his return from Vietnam Carl attended, and received his Juris Doctorate and LL.M. in Tax Law from, The McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. Carl began practicing law by working for the California State Franchise Tax Board before later opening his private practice where he worked until his sudden passing. He was an active member of the Sacramento County Bar Association and the Taxation and Probate Sections, and the Sacramento Estate Planning Council. He was also a member of, and thoroughly enjoyed his association with, the Point West Rotary Club, the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, The Sutter Club, and Presentation Parish.

Carl was a man of many passions and interests. His family was his main passion, and he deeply loved his wife and sons. He was interested in, and read profusely about, history, politics, religion, travel, art, music, opera, ballet, public policy, food, wine, and his family ancestry. He was a former member of the Foundation Boards for the Crocker Art Museum and the California Musical Theatre.

Carl was extraordinarily kind, generous, and gracious, and had a wonderful twinkle in his eye. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends.

A mass of Christian burial was held Friday, October 22 at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church.

Memorials may be sent to the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish; 4123 Robertson Ave; Sacramento, CA 95821-0208 ( or the Crocker Art Museum; 216 O Street; Sacramento, CA 95814 (

October 24, 2010

When I was reading Bud’s wonderful obituary, written by Gloria, Carl and Carter, I thought, both the picture and the writing captured the essence of who Bud was. I read it with great sadness, thinking of the loss that we have all endured but smiled at the accomplishment of this splendid life, a life well lived.

I always thought that the first time that I met Bud Knopke was in our second class year (fall of 1966), when we were paired as roommates in the Thirteenth Squadron at the Air Force Academy. Bud always found great joy in telling me that we were actually roommates for a couple of days in the summer of 1965 as part of our Operation Third Lieutenant tour at McGuire AFB in New Jersey. Apparently, that is when we assumed our roles for the next 45 years, Bud was the “keeper of the truth” and I was the one who would “never tell the truth when a lie would get a bigger laugh.”

I don’t know if it was karma or kismet that brought Bud and I together. All I can say is that it was certainly someone with a grand sense of cosmic humor. I can hear these voices bellowing down from the heavens in some sort of Shakespearean farce…“Let’s put these two totally opposite characters together, maybe make them college roommates and just see what develops…better yet, let’s add their wives and any offspring they spawn, put them into the mix. Oh, oh, oh, I’ve got an even better idea, let’s make them live next to each other for the rest of their lives. That should be hilarious! I think I’ve been hearing a lot of laughter from the heavens ever since.

If fate hadn’t thrown us together as roommates in the summer of 1965, I would have to have invented Bud as my foil, my “Felix Unger”. Here was this young man, who was the epitome of his Midwestern roots. If you’ve seen the movie “Fargo”, which by the way is where Bud was born, you know the man I am talking about…”you betcha!”

Bud was always a gentleman and a man of great honor. He was actually our “honor representative” at the Academy, teaching us that “we shall not lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate among us those who do.” Mike Sotak, Mike Reaves and I used to love to come back from a wild night and test him. “Just suppose Bud, that the four of us were down at the Kachina Lounge, drinking beer and playing pool on the quarter machine and we didn’t let the balls drop in the pockets so that we could keep on playing all night…would that be an honor violation? Bud would put his fingers in his ears, saying “na, na, na I can’t hear you. What about stealing 40 winks between classes?” I could always count on Bud to take the high road….but it was really funny to see his reaction and I would do anything for a laugh.

Mike Reaves, Bud and I were roommates back at the Academy, and about 12 years ago, to nurture and sustain the closeness of our bonds, we began what we facetiously called, the “Wild Man” or “Sunshine Boys” trips. It was an annual adventure, with the first one being a week long road trip back to the Academy for our 30th reunion. We decided, just as a lark, to not do any planning and just head east and see where life took us with each coin flip. These trips became something that we looked forward to keep us young and to test our mettle. They always revealed our personalities as well as our strengths and weaknesses. Bud was the reasoned one, the navigator and the keeper of the truth. His job was to keep us safe and on the straight and narrow, even when Mike and I would push for the unreasonable. Mike was always the cook and the planner, the one that would get us lost. I was the packrat, the eternal optimist and the “keeper of the myth”, the journal that I used to record my sketches and writings about all of our experiences. Our other trips included: sailing from Rio Vista down the Sacramento River and out the Golden Gate Bridge; our 40th Academy Reunion; canoeing and portaging for a week in the Boundary Waters between Minnesota and Canada (we actually violated the Canadian border once due to bad navigation); hiking a couple of different times in Desolation Wilderness as well as Crater Lake and the Steen Mountains in Oregon. I began my journal of the Boundary Waters trip with a quote from Ernest Shackleton that I found in the book The Antarctic Challenge: “…stress was a beast more dangerous than any rogue wave or maverick wind. When they were packed together under severe physical strain for long periods of time, men tended to magnify the faults and shrink the virtues of others around them.” This of course was an attempt at humor because we never found real fault, only humorous exaggerations, and perhaps our greatest legacy from our Academy days was that we always had determination and perseverance to finish what we began. Mike and I were with Bud on another “Wild Man” hike to Lassen Peak when his life ended…he was laughing, telling stories and finishing what he began. He will always be with us on each adventure we take in the future.

Bud could not have been a more steadfast and loyal friend. Even when we felt the challenges of our lives, we always forged ahead with the wisdom that we would rebalance as all good mates do.

The best thing about the serendipitous merging of our lives was that this union also brought closeness, love and nurturing support between our two families. Thanks Bud for the good times, all the special people that you brought into the lives of the Ellis family and for a friendship that transformed my life. I promise you Bud that I will try to be there for your family as long as I live and that our two families will be as one. Love you, John.
John Ellis,

Return to In Memoriam