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A leader and a gentleman: Knudson dies at 68

Former Marseilles mayor served in role for 20 years

The late John Knudson, a former Marseilles mayor, at Marseilles City Hall shortly before the last day of his 20th year in office in 2003. Knudson died Sunday at age 68.
The late John Knudson, a former Marseilles mayor, at Marseilles City Hall shortly before the last day of his 20th year in office in 2003. Knudson died Sunday at age 68.

John Knudson, who served as the Marseilles mayor from 1983 to 2003, died Sunday at OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center. He was 68.

Funeral arrangements will be private, with no visitation.

Knudson is the namesake of Knudson Park across Lincoln Street from the Marseilles City Hall, an honor bestowed on him by the City Council at the time he left the mayor’s post.

Knudson grew up in Marseilles, graduated from Marseilles High School in 1967, served with the Army in Vietnam, was an official of Laborers Local 393 and was supportive of his community in many ways besides his 20 years as mayor.

“He was a true leader,” said David Raikes, who followed Knudson as the business manager of Local 393. “In high school he was the leading man in his class. He did great representing the union, and as mayor he was always there for the community.”

In an interview just before leaving office, Knudson said he was pleased with construction projects such as road improvements and the extension of water and sewer lines that had taken place during his administration.

He said early on he was discouraged by complaint calls but had learned he could cut down on the time spent with them by refusing calls from people who wouldn’t identify themselves — there was no caller ID in those early days.

“The people with problems, I wanted to hear from them,” he said. “But the ones who called to complain or make their voices heard — those really dropped off after the first 18 months.

“I had a philosophy: If they wouldn’t tell me their names or they didn’t tell me their specific problem, then I couldn’t help them, so I didn’t mean to take to them. That helped out a lot.”

Retired also from his union position, Knudson said his plans were “working on my yard and taking it easy.”

But soon he was back in action helping build the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial.

“He was the guy in charge of daily construction,” Raikes said. “He organized the workers, equipment and materials.”

The day before the dedication the wall itself had been installed, but the grounds were torn up from the construction.

Even so, Knudson was confident all would be right by the next day’s dedication. And it was.

“We worked until nearly midnight and the next morning were back by dawn to finish,” Raikes recalled. “I remember just an hour before the ceremonies were to start I was hosing dirt off the sidewalks.”

Knudson also served as the city’s zoning officer and worked on veterans’ programs.

“People will remember John,” Raikes said. “He was a true leader and just a wonderful gentleman.”

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