Douglas Knight, York City's 'cheerleader,' dies

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch

York City lost one of its biggest champions Friday, Jan. 4, according to friends of Douglas Knight. 

Doug Knight poses with a portrait of himself at artist Ophelia Chambliss' art show "Contiguous" at Marketview Arts. Knight died Friday, Jan. 4, 2019.

"He was a mentor, he was an inspiration, he was a cheerleader for the whole community," said Peter Bottros, a musician who worked closely with Knight. "To be honest with you, he never asked for anything in return, he just always gave and gave and gave — with an open heart." 

Knight died suddenly Friday, Jan. 4. He was 46 years old. 

Korey Warner Knight, his wife, said in a Facebook post that she came home from work Friday to find her husband had died. She said Knight did not suffer. 

In an update shared shortly after midnight Sunday, Jan. 6, Warner Knight said services will be held Friday, Jan. 11, and that further details will be posted when they are available.

More:'York's cheerleader': Services to celebrate, remember 'larger than life' Doug Knight

Doug Knight, seen here at a recent Peter Bottros concert, died on Friday, Jan. 4. (Photo courtesy of Randy Flaum)

Knight was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, and grew up in Scranton and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He graduated from Syracuse University and lived in Washington, D.C., for about 16 years before moving back to Pennsylvania, in the Red Lion area, according to his online bio

He was the chief connector at Connect the Dots Movement, which gave him a platform to work with nonprofits and leaders to find creative ways to impact the community.

Adam McCallister, co-owner of McCallister & Myers Real Estate Services, said that when he and Knight first met, it was like meeting a brother he never knew he had. 

"(He) and his wife, Korey, just became instant extended family members for us," McCallister said.

McCallister recalled the first time he and his wife met up with Korey and Doug Knight.

After going to breakfast at Stonybrook Family Restaurant in York City and talking for a few hours, they were having such a good conversation that McCallister suggested they head a few blocks down the street to The First Post pub and restaurant for drinks and appetizers.

"What was supposed to be 'Hey, let’s meet up for a simple brunch' was the beginning of just a beautiful friendship," McCallister said. "That was without a doubt one of my favorite memories."

Knight elevated every conversation he was a part of, McCallister said, describing him as the "consummate motivator and dream builder."

McCallister said that what will stick with him most is that Knight never had an agenda when he was helping someone and never expected anything in return.

"It was always done for the betterment of that person and to overall better the community, and he didn’t care what color, what religion, what anything," McCallister said. "If you had an idea and it was going to better your life and it was going to better the community, he was all for it."

McCallister said Knight was the breath of fresh air that York needed.

"Doug Knight was not selfish at all; he always made stuff for other people," said David Smith, owner of i-ron-ic Coffee Shop, where Knight met with many of his clients. 

Douglas Knight looks on as York Slumbering Groundhog Lodge's "Poor Richard" predicts an early spring during the 90th annual Groundhog Day event at York Elk Lodge 213 in York City, Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

For Smith, Knight helped bring pedicabs to York. Knight also helped Smith put together a 275th Birthday Bash for York in 2016, including a free dinner on East Market Street and 3,000 candy bars with golden tickets, Smith said. 

Smith was just one of the many people Knight helped. Knight was at the coffee shop "all the time" to help inspire others to achieve their dreams and goals, Smith said. 

"He's the guy you shared your visions and dreams with. ... He just really makes you feel like, 'Wow, I can really do this.' He really believes in people," Bottros said. 

I-ron-ic is where Knight and Bottros first met. Four years ago, the two met at the coffee shop and became fast friends, working together ever since, Bottros said. 

"He was the guy I'd to go to ask anything I needed help with. He was the guy I'd go to and ask him, and he was always there for me and to help as much as he can, as much as possible," he said. 

Knight was often the emcee at Bottros' concerts. 

Knight, left, was a mentor to Bottros, center. They are pictured here with Adam McCallister at a recent concert. (Photo courtesy of Peter Bottros)

One of Bottros' fondest memories of Knight is of a recent November concert at the Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center. 

Minutes before Bottros went on stage, he, Knight and another co-host held hands and prayed, Bottros said. 

"(Knight) gave another amazing speech, because he knew I was nervous before coming out, and he really just pumped me up," he said. "That was the last time we were together." 

Moments like that were common, Bottros said. Knight was always making him smile. 

"You just wanted to be around him, he inspired you. He was a mentor," Bottros said. "He just made everything good." 

Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance, said Knight was such a presence in the York community that it was difficult not to know him.

"Much has been said about his passion for the community and the city," Schreiber said. "I think it was really his passion for humanity and wanting to do good and certainly live a life well lived."

Knight was the kind of person who drew others to him with his positivity, Schreiber said, and it's that radiant positivity that Schreiber said he will miss most.

"He really was larger than life, and that’s evident in all of the lives and families and individuals he impacted in a positive way," Schreiber said.

Schreiber recalled a good-natured rivalry between himself and Knight leading up to the 2018 Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots — Knight's favored team — and the Philadelphia Eagles.

If the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl this year, Schreiber said he will root for them in Knight's honor.

Knight didn't just impact the individual lives of those in York but was a "tireless and selfless advocate" for the city, especially the small business community, said city spokesman Philip Given.

"Since moving to York from Washington, D.C., Doug's impact has surely been felt by all in this community. Doug wanted nothing more than to move the needle in York and to see people happy," Given said. "He was a friend with a remarkable smile that lit up whatever room he was in. I will miss him dearly."

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said it's a huge loss to the city and all the nonprofits and businesses Knight helped. 

"His energy and willingness to help everybody made York better for everyone," Helfrich said. 

Meagan Hess Given, Philip's wife and the executive director of Give Local York, said she literally wouldn't be where she is today without Knight. 

Hess Given was working part time for Downtown Inc in 2014 and going through a divorce while raising a 2-year-old and 6-month-old at home, she said in a Facebook post. 

"The next day, Doug resigned from DI and I was offered his position. We never talked about it ... but I know helping me was (at least) partially responsible for his move," she said. 

Bottros said, as did many others, that it's going to be hard for the York community to move on. 

Despite the community's loss, Hess Given said she's going to channel Knight's enthusiasm and optimism to face the day.  

"Kick some ass today," she said. "For DK."

Friends of Knight have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for his memorial services. The page can be found by navigating to gofundme.com and searching "For Doug Knight," or by clicking here.