Known as “Charlie” to his friends, Knuth was lately most famous in Manhasset for his work as leader of the library’s popular “great books” discussion group.
“Charlie was such a wonderful man, he will be missed,” said Debbie Dellis-Quinn, programs and community relations director at the library.
The son of a letter carrier, Dr. Knuth was born in Queens in 1924. He attended Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (now the Polytechnic Institute of New York University), where he received his bachelor’s degree before being drafted into World War II. Sent to specialized Army training at Ohio State University, he was suddenly, and with some secrecy, transferred to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, then to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to work on purifying enriched fissionable materials for the atomic bomb. After the war, he returned to Polytechnic and earned his doctorate.
While completing his doctoral research, Knuth was supported by a fellowship from Pfizer, Inc., and upon graduation joined the company’s research division in Brooklyn. He made many discoveries that Pfizer patented, and after he repeatedly rewrote the applications prepared by the company’s patent division, was offered a position there. He eventually rose to director of the patents. Work in that department gradually came to be dominated not by writing fresh applications, but by testifying in infringement cases. Knuth took well to the role of an expert witness and helped his employer win record damages in one case that dragged on for years in Minnesota, Hawaii, and California.
The hectic challenges of litigation and associated travel prompted Knuth to take early retirement in 1987, when he took up an entirely new career as a book-discussion leader at the Manhasset Public Library. He was often seen at the library researching and gathering books and materials to stimulate discussion. His love of books made the group well received. With more than 30 followers, the evening discussions on philosophy, politics and more were popular enough to be hosted twice per month.
In March 2003, Knuth received special recognition and was presented the prestigious “Friend of the Year” Award. Maureen Lavin, past president of the Friends of Manhasset Library, remarked that Knuth “genuinely loves books and through that love shares his talents wholeheartedly with the community.”
Dr. Knuth was a devoted husband for 49 years to the artist Nancy Addor Knuth, who predeceased him in 2001. Her gentle watercolors, pastels and other works were showcased at the gallery in the library’s community room in 2003. Her husband took great care in framing her works for display and made them a legacy to her by donating an extraordinary monetary gift to the building of the Community Room in the new library. Now when you pass through the doors of the room to experience the wonderful programs being offered at the library you realize the love and friendship that is part of making Manhasset Library a great part of our community. A plaque hangs outside the Community Room at the Manhasset Public Library as tribute in memory of his wife, Nancy Addor Knuth.
He is survived by four daughters: Deborah Knuth Klenck of Hamilton, N.Y., Penelope Knuth of Santiago, Chile, Nancy Thompson of North Bay, Ontario, and Jane Patukas of Lancaster, PA. Dr. Knuth leaves six grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be directed either to The Polytechnic Institute of New York care of Eleanor Fallon, Director, Donor Relations, 15 Metro Tech Center, Brooklyn NY 11201; www.poly.edu/giving or The Manhasset Public Library care of Debbie Dellis-Quinn, Program Director, 30 Onderdonk Ave, Manhasset, NY 11030; firstname.lastname@example.org.