Media representative Jon Knapp lost a valiant battle to beat cancer on Monday evening. The publicist for KB Racing's Greg Anderson and Jason Line was one of the most revered individuals to ever work in an NHRA Media Center. The following comments come from Knapp's co-workers both in public relations and media. He was a behind-the-scenes kind of guy who took pride in his work. We at CompetitionPlus.com considered Jon to be a friend for life and we will miss him greatly. Our deepest condolences go to wife JoAnne and the Knapp family as well as his multitude of close friends, which he had many.
Kelly Wade; PR for Johnny Gray, Shane Gray, Jerry Savoie: “Jon Knapp, my goodness, what a man. What a big heart, and what passion he had for what he loved. It was awesome to watch him work his magic and churn out these wonderful ideas and stories in such a tireless manner (no matter how tired he really was). Jon and Joanne have been an incredible example for me, both professionally and personally, and I am so grateful to have spent time with them in recent years. I only hope a little of what they tried to teach me stuck.
“Many people in our world have known them much longer than I have, but that's the wonderful thing about this duo: their kindness and compassion always created a true feeling of family. Jon and Joanne both made me feel like I fit right in. I will miss Jon's "Hello, young lady" greeting, his jokes and funny faces, the way that he fiercely believed in the people that he worked with, and his abundant appreciation for life. Rest in peace, my friend.”
Lachelle Seymour; PR for Bob Tasca III, Ford Racing: “I learned two lessons from Jon I'll never forget. First, when you're young and looking for career advice, you always hear 'Choose something you're passionate about.' Jon lived that. He loved his Pro Stock cars and probably his drivers even more.
“As much as he loved NHRA Drag Racing, though, he loved Joanne even more. I can't tell you how many times he told me how few days they'd spent apart since they met but I could never bring myself to tell him I already knew. You could hear and see their love for each other. We even say their names in one breath – ‘jonandjoanne,’ because they were never apart. I'd say that's pretty much all it takes to be a success, to love another like they showed us to.”
Susan Wade; CompetitionPlus.com Writer: “’Getting cancer has been really interesting,’ Jon Knapp told me in his thoughtful and comical way. ‘Am I glad it happened to me? No. But it was neat to find out I have so many friends.’
“And today they're brokenhearted that Jon has slipped away from us, actually that cancer stole him away. But if Jon could look on the bright side of a terrible injustice, then we should try to, as well.
“So maybe he would prefer that we think about those times after a long day of racing we'd be sitting around the dinner table, yakking and being silly, and John would be laughing and wife Joanne would be laughing so hard not a sound would come out of her. Or he might like us to remember the funny one-liners, stories, and puns he would entertain us with, especially during a long race delay. Surely he would appreciate us recognizing his ability to listen, to care, and all the times he and Joanne were the last ones to leave the press room on a Sunday night.
“Jon was fiercely loyal to and protective of his friends and to his public-relations clients. Hurt them, threaten them, or insult them and Jon was ready to go to war on their behalf. And in an age of me-me-me, busy schedules, and hand-held electronic devices that isolate us rather than build relationships, Jon was a wonderful breath of fresh air.
“Yet Jon, though opinionated (and that's an endearing quality), was a kind man, a friendly colleague. He had a ready smile, a fun laugh, and a genuine joy in his life.
“And I just love the poem by Henry Van Dyke called ‘Parable of Immortality.’ It's really comforting at times like this, and here's how it goes:
“I stand upon the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and heads out across the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
“And I stand and watch her at length until she hangs like a speck of white cloud on the horizon, just where the sea and sky meet to mingle with each other.
“At my side someone says: ‘There! She's gone.’ Gone where? Gone from my sight--that is all. She is just as large in mast and spar and hull as when she sailed close by, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is my vision alone.
“At the moment when someone at my side says: ‘There! She's gone,’ other eyes watch her coming, and other voices take up the glad shout: ‘Here she comes!’
“Godspeed, my friend Jon Knapp.”
Bobby Bennett; Editor/Publisher at CompetitionPlus.com: “Jon was a kind man and one of the hardest working individuals I've ever had the pleasure to know. Losing Jon is like losing a member of our drag racing community.
“When you spend as many weekends together and long hours living our passion, you develop bonds you cherish. Having experienced the horrors of cancer through losing both parents, when Jon became ill, he and I developed a special bond, even stronger than we had before. We spent time talking when no one else was around. He was an extremely positive man in the face of overwhelming odds. And, if he knew you were praying for him, he made it a point to say thanks.
“I knew the heart of this man and it was a kind, caring and loving one. He was so proud of the teams he and Joanne worked together for. I will miss Jon and pray for the best blessings for Joanne. Jon has gone on to a better place and I rejoice knowing one day we will be reunited with one of the best men I ever knew."
Scott Smith; NHRA PR: “I first met Jon and Joanne when I was with ESPN and they were representing any number of drivers during the time. They were always more than willing to take their drivers where ever and whenever to get them to the interviews. And even in my new capacity they worked with Jason (Line) and Greg (Anderson) to make sure they took care of the off track duties in a timely and respectful manner. Away from the track they became friends that were great dinner companions and once ‘saved’ me from a spirited late night conversation with Chuck and Shelly Etchells. But that is a story for a different day.
“The thing I will remember the most was in 1999 when I was on the mend from hip replacement surgery and a package showed up at my door. I opened it and it was this little dollar store doctor kids’ kit. Just a goofy little thing but a note from them wishing me a speedy recovery and that they were thinking of me. It is those little things, the small acts of kindness that define a person and that defined Jon.
“It might sound silly but I think Jon is up there reunited with all the cats that he and Joanne loved so much, enjoying a warm place in the sun and at peace.”
Bob Wilbur; Tim Wilkerson PR: “I feel like I've known Jon Knapp forever, because I can't remember a year when we weren't both out there together, making the tour and doing our work. Jon was one of the most unique people I've ever met, and I don't just mean that in terms of the NHRA world. He was supremely dedicated, ultimately professional, and extremely talented.
“His marriage to Joanne was a pure partnership, and he showed so much respect and devotion to her we all saw them as simply one person; each an extension of the other He was the kindest gentleman in the room, wherever he was. He was the teller of bad jokes, but the guy who appreciated the humor in others and laughed the loudest, in a pure and unaffected way. There was never a Sunday when he didn't go out of his way to shake my hand and say ‘Good luck today’ as if my team's success was as important to him as his own.
“He just cared. He cared about his work, his wife, his teams, and his colleagues. You can't ask any more of a person than that.
“We just lost a good soul on this planet, and all of our thoughts and support go out to Joanne and their families.”
Elon Werner; John Force Racing PR: “Jon’s passing is a tough deal. I’ll miss him a lot and I hope we can stay in touch with Joanne because she is so awesome. They were a great team and what I really loved about Jon was his passion for his clients.
“If Jon was PRing your team he was on YOUR team. There was no gray area. He loved the Summit guys so much and he brought that passion to promoting them, writing about them, and talking about them. He was a great advocate for all the PR Stock teams and at one time or another he worked for all the top teams with the exception of JEGS.
“He was helpful and thoughtful all the time. If there was a new PR person he was always one of the first to welcome them and make sure they met everyone in the room. If there was an article about another team he was always there to grab an extra copy and pass it along at the next race. He was just a super, super guy.
“I know he loved Joanne with all his heart and they were so great together. I don’t know if I could work with my wife but I definitely try to emulate the love and understanding Jon showed to Joanne.
“He will be missed every time I walk in the press room.”
Chris Dirato - It was with great sadness earlier today when I heard the news about Jon Knapp’s passing. A former NHRA team PR colleague, I was also proud to call Jon a true friend.
I can vividly recall my first race weekend on the NHRA tour back in 2001. As a wide-eyed rookie on the circuit handling the publicity for the U.S. Army Top Fuel team and Tony Schumacher, Jon was one of the first to greet me in the Atlanta Dragway media center and offer any assistance I might need.
That was Jon in a nutshell – always putting others before himself. To be sure, we should all take a page out of that book. He and his wife, Joanne, have been fixtures around the NHRA community for many years and clearly his loss will be felt all around.
Not only will I remember Jon’s giving ways, but also the professional way he did his job. Perhaps, more importantly, he always kept the crazy business of racing in the proper perspective. His sense of humor was second to none in my book. In fact, Joanne referred to Jon as “Mr. Comedian.” That was a spot on description.
Jon was also an animal lover, which immediately formed an instant bond between us. In the last seven years, I have had to put down my two beloved Maltese companions – Odie and Sammie. Along with Joanne, Jon was right there to comfort me from the time the news was delivered on each occasion. That meant so much to me and further left an impression of the kind of person he was.
In recent years, Jon and Joanne were co-workers of mine at Kermish-Geylin Public Relations. While my focus was on the Top Fuel class with the Army team and Jon’s on the Pro Stock class via KB Racing, there was never a sense of isolation. Jon was constantly ready to lend a hand if things got a bit hectic. I always marveled at his work ethic.
Without question, the NHRA family lost a terrific person last night. I’m betting that Jon is already settled into his new digs – in that wonderful media center in the sky.
Rest in peace my dear friend.
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