Alleyne was born January 14, 1921 to George and Ethel (Boote) Essex in Maquon, Illinois. Growing up, her family lived in various rural towns of Illinois and Iowa, as her father’s jobs changed. She and her younger brother Edwin were very close. When their mother and their brother Georgie died within five months of each other in 1929, Alleyne took Ed under her wing. Their Dad had a difficult time coping with his wife’s and son’s deaths, so Ed and Alleyne went to live with their Aunt Irma and Uncle Roy Boote on their Good Hope, IL Farm for 6 months.
Their father remarried, to Juanita Klinck, and had two more children, Tom and Ellen Annette (known as Anne). Tom had trouble pronouncing “Alleyne” and so her nickname became “Aldy.” Alleyne disliked her real first name (Belva) and called herself Alleyne. Although her childhood was not easy, she had some good memories, including visiting her Uncle Hi and Aunt Marion in Rochester, Minnesota and playing with her many cousins.
After her 1938 graduation from Knoxville High School, Alleyne saved up her money while working at a dime store owned by family friends, the Lanes. She went on to nurse’s training at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, IL, becoming an RN after three years. The students worked long hours, serving as aides while they learned from the nuns. Alleyne made enduring friendships with fellow nurses at St. Francis.
Alleyne joined the Navy Nurse Corps in 1943, contributing to the war effort. It was there she met Navy pilot William (Bill) Arthur Knouff. He was recuperating from a war wound and she was his nurse. In the Navy, Alleyne was a Lt. Junior Grade and took her nursing duties very seriously. Bill even had to coax her to go out on a date. After her original assignment at Long Beach, CA, Bill and Alleyne were both stationed in Astoria, OR. The Navy was opening a new hospital there and chose several nurses, including Alleyne, to go ahead to set it up. Post-war, Alleyne was briefly stationed in Seattle.
Bill and Alleyne married in 1945 and soon welcomed little William Everett (1946), named after his grandfather. They lived in Portland, Bill’s home town, and Alleyne relished the Northwest’s mountains, forests, and beaches, preferring them to the flatness of the Midwest. As their family grew, three girls were born, Annette Sue (1948), Alice Lynn (1950), and Dorothy Irene (1952). While raising their children, Alleyne was involved with Cub Scouts, Campfire Girls, PTA meetings, church activities, and making sure everything ran smoothly at home. The family especially loved summer camping trips to Mt. Hood and Ft. Stevens. While the guys went fishing, the girls went beachcombing or hiking in the woods, bringing back treasures from nature.
Once her kids were in school, for a creative challenge she started “junking” and bought old furniture to strip, paint, refinish, or tole paint. She had a flair for interior decorating as well. During one period, she went wild with sponge painting and stenciling on the furniture and floors. Writing was another of her skills. She was always there to help her kids when they were stumbling over homework, giving encouragement and guidance. She also took a correspondence writing course, and wrote a series of Irma Bombeck-esque stories about her family.
In the mid 1960s, Alleyne decided to become more independent and achieve new goals. She successfully learned how to drive a car, and continued driving until her late 80s. When her youngest reached high school age, Alleyne endured nursing refresher courses which encompassed vast changes in the medical field over the prior 20 years. Alleyne found her niche at Wilshire Clinic, working there from the late 1960s until her retirement. Great lifelong friendships were forged there.
Upon retirement, Alleyne embarked on classes at Marlhurst College and Mt Hood Community College. She took up ceramics, and each of her children keep special pieces she produced—sturdy! She also volunteered to help organizations she felt passionate about. With the Stephen Ministry, she cared for those in a spiritual hospice capacity. In Linclon City, she volunteered at a shelter for women. Through SMART, she read with grade school kids who needed extra reading help.
Bill and Alleyne were strong promoters of education and gave all their kids the opportunity to attend college (at Oregon State University, of course; Dad’s alma mater.) Over the years, all four children married—Bill and Alleyne welcoming the new spouses in turn.
They were also quite the DIY duo, fixing up homes in Portland, Lincoln City, and at Fishhawk Lake. Between projects, they enjoyed travel to Europe, Mexico, Hawaii and around the U.S. Alleyne had a fascination with history, be it through reading, TV programs, or traveling to historical sites like Williamsburg.
Throughout their lives, devotion to church was a clear theme with both Bill and Alleyne. They taught Sunday school and made sure the whole family was involved in church activities at the Presbyterian Church of Laurelhurst. There, they were part of a group of fast friends who called themselves “The Clipper Club.”
Alleyne had a dignified presence, but she enjoyed a good joke too. She could be shy around people she didn’t know, and preferred to socialize with close friends and family. She loved to put on a big welcoming dinner at home.
Alleyne is survived by her children, William E Knouff (Nancy), Annette Dalen (Gary), Alice Knouff (Mike), and Dorothy Strasser (Ron). Her twelve grandchildren are Janelle Johnson (Paul), Jennifer Retz (Erik), Jeff Dalen (Jenny), Jim Dalen, Will Knouff (Sarah), Paul Knouff (Sangi), Josh Knouff (Tiffany), Dan Knouff (Kristin), Brian Knouff (Kristina), Elizabeth Knouff, Patrick Knouff (Kendra), and Ellie Coley (Terrence). As her (30!) great grandchildren joined the family in leaps and bounds, Alleyne happily played patty-cake, distributed gum (she was known as Gum Gramma), and loved them all.
Alleyne will be remembered as a generous, talented, and intelligent woman. She revered her family and took her religious, community, and familial duties to heart. We honor her, and all she accomplished, in a life well lived.
We would like to thank the loving staff at Pacific Senior Living, the Gresham Memory Care home where Alleyne lived for many years. Their special care made a huge difference in her life.
There will be a viewing April 10, 9am-1pm at Holman’s Funeral Home, followed by a short service at Willamette National Cemetery where we will meet at 1:30pm. A celebration of life gathering will be held later this summer; date tbd.
In lieu of flowers, you may donate to the SMART reading program, Fisher House Foundation, or a charity of your choice.
Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Time: 09:00 am
End Time: 01:00 pm
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