Chief John Knockwood
January 1933 - January 2007
District Chief John Knockwood
Farewell to my first cousin, more a brother, Chief John Knockwood.
John was a long-time valued friend, who is sorely missed. Although, in our declining years, we didnít hang out as much together as we did in our Boston days (1950s), we kept in touch - talked by phone quite often, and had occasional visits and lunches. He was someone I could always depend upon to help with a problem when needed, and he saw me the same way. It was also a relationship that produced many laughs, and some hair raising adventures.
In fact, I have a great many fond memories of the unusual situations that he and I got into in our younger years. Iíll relate a few, however, because this is a family Website, they are among the tamer ones.
John was a guy, as most who knew him well can attest, who loved to eat - it occasionally caused us some memorable moments. One of the funniest happened in Boston, around the mid-1950s. It was Christmas, and we got a hankering for a good old-fashioned home-cooked Christmas dinner. With visions of a delicious meal in mind, such as those our mothers had made for us, we decided to do something about it and cook one - keep in mind that neither of us knew beans about cooking at the time.
However, not to be deterred by lack of cooking skills, to get the show on the road we went out and bought a roaster and a small turkey. Early on Christmas morning, with great confidence of delectable results in store for us, into the gas oven it went - an appliance that was located in a small enclosed kitchen in our apartment. Not having a clue about how to prepare the bird we put some salt and pepper on it, but no stuffing - maybe we expected that stuffing would magically appear while it cooked. And, being back-country hicks from Nova Scotia, and young men who had never had the occasion to use a gas stove oven or, for that matter, any other kind of oven, we didnít know that you had to have ventilation in the room where the gas oven was located, in particular, a small room.
While dinner was cooking, to pass the time away, and help suppress our great anticipation of a forthcoming delicious Christmas meal, we were sitting in the front room having a few brews, when all of a sudden there was a tremendous explosion from the kitchen, which rocked the entire apartment building. We took off to see what was the matter, and discovered the oven door had blown off and was firmly embedded in the kitchen wall across from the stove - our greatly anticipated Christmas turkey dinner was but a dream in the ruins. We wound up having wieners and home cooked beans at the Dover Street Dinner, and a very unhappy landlord to deal with.
Then there was the time we experimented with Muscatel, the favourite alcohol drink of quite a few of our First Nation compatriots in Boston. Which, unfortunately, became the means to the end of the road for many of them. We wanted to satisfy our curiosity about why the drink was so delectable to them. Thus, to obtain the material needed for the experiment, we went to the liquor store and bought a case of twelve bottles of the ďfine wine.Ē
Upon our return to our apartment, the test got under way immediately. We each opened a quart and very quickly consumed them. By the time we got four each down the hatch, it was lights out time. When we awoke the next morning, we were the sickest, most dejected, possessors of the worst hangovers we had ever had. In fact, even today, I canít recall ever being so sick. After the passage of a few days, and the slow return to normal health, we concluded that once you drank Muscatel, unless you were able to muster the courage to stop and deal with the mighty ghastly hangover as we had, you had to keep drinking it until the end. From our point of view, it was the only way to avoid the god-awful sickness that came from consuming it.
The remaining four quarts sat on the kitchen counter for many months. Finally, I got sick of looking at them and asked John when he was going to finish them off. His response: ďYou think Iím crazy, Iíve been waiting for you to do it, Iíll never drink that stuff again as long as I live,Ē to my knowledge he never did, nor did I. This led to an event that would have cast us in the eyes of the Cityís Winos as monestrous abusers of what they considered their sacred champagne, we, without ceremony or sense of loss, poured them down the drain.
Before I turn serious, one more tale. This one relates to Johnís work at a iron foundry in Boston. After work, he would come home looking like a derelict hobo - covered from head to foot with the soot and the other floating garbage that a foundry produces. One day, when he arrived home extremely derelict looking, I told him: ďyou should take clean clothes to work with you and take a shower before walking home, because, one of these days, the cops are going to pick you up as a derelict and run you in.Ē He didnít listen, and eventually got nailed.
Lucky for him, I got home early the day it happened. I was preparing our supper when suddenly there was a very loud knock on the door. I opened it, and there stood two of Bostonís finest, very large men, with John firmly griped by each arm between them. They had caught him heading up the front stairs to our apartment building, and assumed from his appearance that he was a derelict bent on doing some break and entry. To me they posed a question: ďdo you know this bum?Ē Before replying, I hesitated for about fifteen or twenty seconds, I could see in Johnís eyes the notion that I was going to say no, but I relented and said yes.
After the police left, satisfied that the neighborhood was safe, John told me: ďYou blank, blank, you were going to say no werenít you.Ē I responded ďYes, the temptation was almost to great to resist, but I thought the bother of bailing you out was to much of a pain.Ē He did learn a lesson from his near incarceration, from that day forward he took clean clothes to work and showered before he came home.
I have many more fond memories of our younger days, and more than a few from our later years, altogether they could fill a small book. But, the best memory of all is of a man whom I trusted without reservation. John was an honest reliable man. When he gave his word about something it was as good as a written contract, never once did I doubt his sincerity and integrity.
As far as leadership goes, John was an excellent leader. He had something that many people who aspire to leadership donít have, something that is an absolute necessity for successful leadership, the ability to recognize that occupying a position with a fancy title doesnít fill the occupier with the knowledge and expertise needed to be the last word in carrying out the responsibilities associated with the position. Therefore, when he was Chief of the Shubenacadie Band, and in other position of leadership, he was wise enough to consult with many experts, who had in-depth knowledge of the subject under consideration, before making a decision.
Because of it, and many other good qualities, John was a very good chief of the Shubenacadie Band - probably one of the best it has had in itís thousands of years of history (the name Shubenacadie belongs to the Band, not the nearby non-Indian village, it was the Bandís traditional name a long time before the first Europeans arrived here). He served the people with honour and integrity. To the Shubenacadie Band, and the Miíkmaq people in general, he gave of his time generously and with foresight. His concern for the Bandís future was always a prime concern. The Band, and the Miíkmaq First Nation, have lost a valuable Elder, and a good friend.
Johnís wife Virginia (Geno), their children, grandchildren, sister, myself, and his many other relatives, and his legion of friends from across the land, are much the better for having known John. He was unique, loyal, mostly cheerful, and good-natured, he shall be greatly missed!
In my steadfast belief in the goodness of the Great Spirit, I know that Chief John, a man of good heart, will be welcomed by Him with open arms into the Land of Souls to live for all eternity in peace and tranquility!
Daniel N. Paul
May 24 2008
John's loving wife Geno went to join him in the Land of Souls on February 22, 2017.
Obituary of Virginia "Geno" Knockwood
KNOCKWOOD, Virginia Ann ďGenoĒ - age 80, passed away peacefully surrounded by her family at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre. Reunited with her loving husband, Stephen ďJohnĒ KNOCKWOOD (former Chief of Indian Brook and District Chief of Nova Scotia).
Survived by her children, Ida, Shonna (Barry) Stephen (Rhonda), Ronald (Jennifer), Lynn, Heather, Ian, Coliste, Stuart (Angie), Lesley, Glen (Amy), and Ella.
Also survived by 18 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren, one on the way; sons by heart, Darrell Johnson and Gaetan Goguen.
She was the last surviving member of her immediate family. She was a daughter of the late Keptin Stephen Paul, Spiritual Miíkmaq Prayer Leader of the People (known today as the Grand Council) and the late Sarah Paul (Brooks). Predeceased by, Mary, Catherine, Rita, Patsy, Geraldine, Ronald, Lawrence, Patrick, Edward, John Turner.
Geno was very involved and dedicated to her church, St. Kateri, Indian Brook and served as President of the Ladies of St. Annís for 38 years.
Geno and John were foster parents to many children over the years. Geno had numerous godchildren. Her home was always open to family and friends; she always said, ďThere is room for one more.Ē
Geno was a former Band Councillor, employed by the residential school and Abenaki Motel as a cook, and worked as a community health worker retiring at the age of 74.
She was a lifelong volunteer. One of her proudest accomplishment was when she and her life long friend, Doris Maloney took 3 years of fundraising and built the church rectory for the priest of Indian Brook.
Geno was a very avid softball and hockey fan, but her favourite of all time was the Montreal Canadians.