Fr. Robert McKnight (a.k.a. Bobby) passed away last weekend. I worked with Bobby for a year and a half at St. Patrick’s RC Church in Wallingford, Vermont. Talk about a character. He was a child radio star and Broadway actor before joining the priesthood, although the following obituary doesn’t play those aspects up nearly as much as he did when alive!
Rev. Robert J. McKnight, of Hoboken, entered into eternal life at Hoboken University Hospital, on June 29, 2009, at the age of 73. Robert was born in Hoboken, later in his life moved to Vermont before retiring and returning to Hoboken. He was a graduate of Our Lady of Grace Grammar School; he attended A.J. Demarest High School and graduated from Jersey City Academy. Bobby attended St. John Vianney Seminary from 1964-1967 and then graduated with a Masters in Divinity from St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, Pennsylvania, from 1968-1972. He was a Veteran of the United States Army, part of the First Infantry from 1959-1961. Robert’s theatrical background earned him a specialist service unit in Ft. Reilly KS during Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. On several occasions when the president visited his home state, Bobby was chosen to sing the National Anthem in his presence. He was also a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He performed with several professional summer stock theater groups in New England, as well as the West Coast. A former winner of the Ted Mack Armature Hour, he gained his popularity in Hoboken as a youth. Many would remember him as Bobby Benson of the B Bar B Ranch. He was also the official understudy of the late Sal Mineo as the Prince in the original “King & I” production with Yul Brynner on Broadway, having the opportunity to perform on several occasions. Robert was a Roman Catholic Priest for the Diocese of Burlington.
He was ordained into Priesthood at Our Lady of Grace Church, Hoboken, New Jersey on October 12, 1973. His assignments as a Priest were St. Francis, Winooski from 1973-1976, he was than transferred to the Archdiocese of Newark serving at the St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Bloomfield, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Jersey City, and also Our Lady of Grace Church in Hoboken, he then returned to the Diocese of Burlington at St. Mary Church in Newport, Christ the Kingin Rutland, St. Paul Church in Orwell and later becoming the Pastor in 1994 and mission, St. Genevieve, Shoreham St. Patrick, Wallingford and Our Lady of Mercy, Mt. Holly, Vermont. Robert had Senior Priest Status on January 5, 2005. Robert is survived by his sister Marguerite; brother John and wife, Bernardina; his nephew David and wife, Katya; and his great nephew David Jr. He is also survived by a host of cousins. Robert was predeceased by his parents, retired Hoboken Fireman John F. McKnight and wife, Paulina. He was also predeceased on the same day by his late brother, Gerald Patrick McKnight. Funeral from Failla Memorial Home, on Friday, July 3, 2009, at Our Lady of Grace R.C. Church, Hoboken, at 12:00 p.m. Interment to follow at the Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington, New Jersey. Visitation will be held on Friday only, at Our Lady of Grace Church, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Did you catch that?? his youngest brother also died at age 66 on the same day. For his surviving brother and sister that had to have been crazy. The funerals for both Bobby and Gerald were held at the same time and they were buried together as well. No wonder they didn’t come up with a more schnazzy obit for their wise-cracking, eccentric, artsy character of an older brother – they had to write TWO. Ugh. Can’t imagine.
So, since I missed the funeral, I went online and found the obituary and left this on the online guest book:
Dear John and Marguerite,
My sincerest condolences to both of you for the loss of both of your brothers Bobby and Gerald. I cannot imagine how you must feel losing them both at the same time.
Having served with Bobby at St. Patrick’s in Vermont as his musician and secretary and sat with him at his bedside during his three-week stay at Dartmouth several years ago, I truly hope that his retirement back home to NJ was restful and happy for him. Having left Vermont soon after he did, I’m sorry that I never got back up to NJ to visit him, as I know he would have had a lot to say about my cutting my hair and going blonde – at which I would have joked right back at him about how it was him who caused me to go grey and need to dye it in the first place! Interestingly, I distinctly recall that he also went grey during the time I knew him. But our relationship involved a lot of busting chops and since my family was all from Jersey City, it was all good. I’ll always remember his “Hudson County cackle.”
Although our paths crossed but for a year and a half, I can attest that through his highs and his lows, he was always a character, and that is how I shall fondly remember him. Those who knew him surely have many “Bobby stories” to share and laugh about in his memory and honor.
Blessings to each of your families in this time of grief.
- He was indeed a character offstage as I am sure he was onstage as well. Oh, the Bobby stories I could tell…….. May perpetual light shine upon him and may his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.