In Memoriam: Katharine Jean Knudsen (1926-2018) 2017 MCBA Liberty Bell Award Recipient


By Diana L. Coleman
Legal News

Jean Knudsen, the recipient of the Muskegon County Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award, has passed away after a lengthy struggle with health issues. Knudsen was a lovely, gracious lady who worked diligently in the community and around the country for the good of humanity.  When she was presented with the Liberty Bell Award, Ed Wasiura, a former legal associate of her deceased husband, stated in his presentation that, “Jean should win the award if for no other reason than the fact that she lived a lifetime with Harry.”  She was much loved by family, friends, and all those she served in a long life of service.

Katharine Jean Knudsen (her full name though she went by Jean), age 91, passed away peacefully Tuesday, April 17, 2018, at her home in North Muskegon.  She was born December 4, 1926, in Valparaiso, Indiana, to her parents George A. Van Hooser and Marian Livingston Van Hooser (later remarried). Her stepfather was Herbert Schleman. Her siblings (all Schleman) were: Judith (deceased), Marian (who lives in Chico, Calif.), and Herbert (deceased). 

Jean married Harry J. Knudsen, who was to become a well-known figure on the Muskegon legal scene, on June 8, 1951. He preceded her in death on June 30, 2016. The couple met at Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) in 1949 as undergraduates. They had three children: Jon Eric Knudsen who has one daughter, Hannah, with his wife Martina and lives in Romulus, N.Y.; Lisa Ann Gerling (deceased) whose husband was Robert Gerling, and who had one son from a prior marriage, Jaime, who lives in Muskegon; and Kaj Elizabeth (husband Christopher) Brown who has two sons, Benjamin and Nathaniel, residing in Avon, Ind.. There are also several nieces and nephews, in both the U.S. and Denmark. 

Mrs. Knudsen was a graduate of Northwestern University and Evanston School of Nursing, obtaining a BA in nursing in 1950. She worked at Northwestern University Passavant Memorial Hospital in Chicago from 1950-1952. When the married couple relocated to Muskegon, Mrs. Knudsen was a member of the Visiting Nurses Association from 1952 to 1956 and also taught at the Hackley School of Nursing in the 1960s. She then devoted her time to raising her three children and was active in Girl Scouts as a troop leader and in Cub Scouts as a den mother.

Once the children were raised, Knudsen returned to community service by volunteering with the Muskegon chapter of the American Red Cross and serving as a board member. She was the chairperson of the Disaster Committee for several years, and responded to 17 national disasters covering hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, tornadoes, and Mississippi floods. Notably, she also responded to the NYC 9/11 terrorist attack, helping survivors and first responders. 

Knudsen was the recipient of the following awards: Reese Award for Volunteer of the Year from Muskegon American Red Cross, the Merrill Bailey Award from the State of Michigan Blood Bank, and the Liberty Bell Award for community service from the Muskegon County Bar Association. 

She was also active in her church, Central Lutheran Church of Muskegon, serving as both president and board member.

Funeral services will be held Monday April 30th at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1206 Whitehall Road, North Muskegon, with visitation at 10:00 a.m., service at 11:00 a.m., and a reception to follow at the church. Pastor Bill Uetricht will officiate.  In-

terested parties may sign the on-line guest book at

Instead of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Muskegon Red Cross in memory of Katherine Jean Knudsen.