Thursday, April 26, 2007

Garrett C. Knoll dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his location'

Garrett Knoll was never afraid of hard work.

He ran a grueling cross country and track schedule for four years at Bad Axe High School.

During the summer, he would wake up as early as 4 a.m. for his job at Verona Hills Golf Club.

That hard-working attitude carried over to his military lifestyle. Though he had been enlisted for less than a year, he became a person soldiers relied on with their lives.

The 23-year-old Knoll, a 2001 Bad Axe High School graduate, was among nine U.S. military personnel killed Monday when a truck bomb exploded next to their patrol base northeast of Baghdad. Knoll had been serving as a medic in Iraq for two months.

Knoll's grandparents, Robert and Ruth Knoll of Verona Township, were notified of his death early Tuesday.

Lee Kahler knew Knoll as well as any teacher in the Bad Axe school system. Kahler was Knoll's general biology teacher, as well as cross country and track coach.

"He was a guy who was always full of energy," Kahler said. "He was very enthusiastic. He was a really neat kid."

During high school, Knoll worked at Verona Hills Golf Club, a course literally in the backyard of his grandparents’ home. Knoll and his grandparents were known to start their rounds on No. 16 where their backyard came out to the course.

Knoll worked on the maintenance/custodial staff, as well as in the bag room at Verona Hills. During the summers, he would arrive at the course as early as 4 a.m. to do custodial duties, then shift to the bag room and greet members as they arrived for their tee times.

"He was quiet, but very polite and well mannered," said Verona Hills PGA professional Terry Ernst. "He was always around the course because of where his grandparents lived. He was a good kid."

Knoll also attended Verona Mills School. His former teacher, Kathy Cregeur, remembers Knoll as "fun loving."

"He was always trying to play a joke,” she said. "He was well liked. He got along with other students really well. He was smiling and happy."

She said Knoll liked sports of all kinds, including softball, running and golf. Cregeur said Knoll also was always willing to help younger students at Verona Mills.

Bad Axe High School Principal Wayne Brady remembers Knoll as well liked and funny.

"He was a nice kid — had a nice sense of humor," Brady said. "He enjoyed his track ... and liked to play golf — he was always bugging me about playing golf. He had a nice circle of friends that got along real well."

Josh Roggenbuck, owner of the Flower Farm in Bad Axe and a former classmate of Knoll’s, said Knoll “was a quiet (and) honest kid.” Roggenbuck went to Verona Mills and Bad Axe with Knoll.

"He never seemed to know what he wanted to do with his life, but when he went into the Army he had a whole new conviction," Roggenbuck said.

Troy Ziehm, Knoll’s second cousin, spent a lot of time with Knoll and his father when they were younger. He said Knoll's father passed away a few years ago.

"His dad helped raise me, and I tried to return the favor for Garrett,” Ziehm said. “He (Knoll) always kept his chin up. No matter how bad things seemed to get, it never seemed to affect him.”

Johanna Ziehm, Ubly Community Schools teacher, has known Knoll since his childhood.

"He used to play with my kids when he was little," she said. "He was just a sweetheart as a kid. He was just a real nice, quiet kid."

Bad Axe teacher Steve Kennedy, like so many others, remembers Knoll's sense of humor.

"He was a funny kid, a good, solid kid,” he said. "And he seemed excited about being in the military."

Kennedy said he remembers Knoll enjoying his time on the cross country squad. "He was a hard worker," he said. "He wasn’t the star, but he did his part to be a contributing member of the team."

Kahler remembers Knoll and his friends on the cross country team, including Dan Melnik, Randy Krug and BJ Neeb, always liked to play euchre on the bus while traveling to meets.

"So one day Garrett gets on the bus and he has a battery-operated shuffling machine that he found somewhere," Kahler snickered. "I saw it and was joking with him that the euchre deck is so small that he didn't need an automatic shuffler. He said, 'Sure we do.' That was Garrett."

Friends since the third grade, Tim Harris Jr. of Bad Axe, said the last time he saw Knoll was in January when Knoll was home on (military) leave.

"I drove him to Yale to meet up with a cousin,” said Harris, who also was in the Army.

Harris said the two used to go perch fishing and ran track together.

"I was in a meeting in Bay City (Tuesday) when my (cellular) phone was ringing," Harris said. "I couldn’t answer it. A guy there at the meeting came and told me a friend of mine died in Iraq. I knew right away who it was."

Fellow 2001 graduate Dave Osminski said he had lost touch with Knoll over the last few years and was surprised and shocked to hear his former high school friend was killed. Osminski said he remembers Knoll as being "outgoing, really nice and fun to hang around with."

Bad Axe Superintendent Jim Wencel was not working for Bad Axe Public Schools when Knoll was a student there, but he said, "Anytime a young person’s life is taken, it’s a sad situation. I feel for his grandparents."

From the Huron Daily Tribune