Muskegon legal community has lost two icons


By Diana L. Coleman
Legal News

The Muskegon legal community mourns the loss of two of its icons. Both attorneys spent their entire legal careers in the practice of law in Muskegon County. Harry J. Knudsen served as both a municipal judge and prosecuting attorney during his legal career. Knudsen was known for his sharp legal mind and, also, his rather lengthy editorials. His editorials were not only in most cases highly accurate but extremely entertaining. Robert Libner came to Muskegon County to practice law and became a champion of the working man’s issues. Libner started his career at the McCroskey firm, which has long been known as one of West Michi-gan’s premier firms for representing workers’ issues. Libner later left McCroskey and formed his own firm of Libner, Van-Leuven, and Kortering. Both attorneys made a lasting impact on the Muskegon legal community.

Harry J. Knudsen
Mr. Harry Knudsen, age 90, passed away June 30 in Mus-kegon. He married the former Katharine Jean Schleman on June 9, 1951 in Valparaiso, Indiana. Harry was a graduate of Muskegon High School, Mus-kegon Community College (Associate), Northwestern Uni-versity (BS Law) and North-western University Law School (LLB, JD). He served in the Marine Corps from 1944-1946. Harry had a distinguished legal career ranging from municipal judge, county prosecutor to attorney for several local municipalities. Harry was a member of the Muskegon County Bar Asso-ciation and life member of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Conference. He was admitted to practice: U.S. District Court for: Eastern and Western District of Michigan and Northern District of Ohio, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court.
Harry was a life member of Elks Lodge #274, a member of Masonic Muskegon Lodge 32nd Mason, Member of Scottish Rite, Saladin Temple Shriners, Muskegon County Shrine Club, Muskegon Heights Board of Commerce, and VFW. Harry was a longtime member of Central Lutheran Church and more recently a member of First Evangelical Lutheran Church. 

He is survived by his wife, Katharine Jean; children Kaj (Chris) Brown, Jon (Martina) Knudsen, and Lisa Gerling who preceded him in death; son-in-law Bob Gerling; grandchildren Jaime Knudsen, Ben Brown, Nathan Brown, and Hannah Knudsen: step-grand-children Rob (Candice) Gerling; great-grandchildren Izyk and Eli Gerling; sister-in-law Mimi Mitchell; and nieces Marilyn (Ray) Staley and Judee (Frank) Strott. Many family members in Florida and Denmark. 

For pleasure Harry and Jean enjoyed many activities including being avid downhill skiers and “bombed the slopes” in the U.S., Austria, Yugoslavia, and New Zealand. They were avid sailors on Lake Michigan, the Caribbean, and Mediterranean. And they loved to travel the globe... visiting all the continents except Antarctica.

In lieu of flowers please send contributions to Harbor Hos-pice, First Lutheran Church, or Northwestern University. Please feel free to sign the on-line guest book at A Celebration of Life will be  July 9 at 11 a.m., at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1206 White-hall Rd., with Rev. William Uerict and Rev. John Jack co-celebrants. Entombment will take place in the church. Visitation will take place one hour prior to the service at the church.

Robert Libner
Robert (Bob) Libner, 86, a resident of Beachwood, Ohio died peacefully of natural causes on June 20. He was born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, the oldest child of Jacob and Ethel (Sachs) Libner. He excelled at both academics and sports, playing on his high school’s football and ice hockey teams. Bob was awarded a bachelor’s degree in finance from New York University, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1952. He graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law in 1955, and moved with his wife, Ruth, and his young family to Muskegon, where he practiced until retirement in 1997.
Bob was a partner in the Marcus, McCroskey, Finucan and Libner law firm, and specialized in workers’ compensation insurance cases. He zealously and effectively represented many hundreds of injured and sick workers and their families, casualties of the dangerous heavy industries then prevalent in western Michigan. 

Bob was a lifelong member of Congregation B’nai Israel, a lifetime honorary member of the NAACP, a staunch Democrat and a proponent of organized labor. Bob loved to fish and boat in Michigan’s lakes and rivers, enjoyed playing tennis, bowling, boating and following the exploits of Michigan’s professional sports teams, as well as U of M’s Wolverines. He was very involved with Ruth in raising their four children in North Muskegon, participating in their many hobbies and interests. Bob and Ruth travelled to England, Israel and Greece. 

The Libners became legendary breeders of wire-haired fox terriers, and their Libwyre Kennel attained the zenith of its renown when their dog, Robbie, won best of breed at Westmin-ster Kennel Club.

Robert was predeceased by his younger brother, Leonard Libner. He is survived by his wife, Ruth Libner of Highland Heights, Ohio; a sister, Susan (Libner) Scupin; and his four children Maurice Libner, Annette Libner, Dr. Heidi (Libner) Littman, and Laura Libner; and by several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. 

Robert had a traditional Jewish funeral and burial at Mt. Sinai Cemetery on June 22 in Mayfield, Ohio. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Congregation B’nai Israel in Muskegon. 

Robert Libner will long be remembered for his many acts of loving kindness, to his wife, children, relatives, and friends, and for the tremendous difference he made in the lives of so many of his clients and their families, and for all working people in the State of Michigan.