Caroline “Jean” Knafels, 83, passed away unexpectedly Sunday, November 29, 2020 at Briarfield Manor in Austintown. Caroline was born December 3, 1936 in Youngstown, daughter of Pasquale and Angeline (Pruce) Gentile.
Caroline grew up with her 4 brothers on a farm home built by her father in Lowellville, Ohio. She attended and graduated Struthers High School while also winning an award in women’s basketball for outstanding play. During and after high school she worked waitressing for the Isaly Dairy in Struthers then later worked at Consolidated Manufacturing in downtown Youngstown.
On May 17, 1958 she married the love of her life, Richard Knafels. While her husband was based with the U.S. Army at Fort Gordon in Augusta Georgia for basic training, they had their first child, Catherine Mary. Upon her husband’s discharge from service and return home over a year later they then had their first son, Ronald Alan followed by Mark Richard 9 years later.
In 1974, Caroline went to work as a nurse’s assistant in the emergency department at the former Southside Medical Center working midnight shift. She was then transferred to the emergency department of the former Northside Medical Center and finally to the cardiac unit of 1-Northwest where she retired in 2001 after 28 years of service.
After her retirement, Caroline joined the Red Hats Society along with dice and card clubs and spent even more time with family and friends. She also traveled before and after retirement taking numerous bus tours, day trips, and even 2 cruises. She also traveled to see family in Chicago, IL, Washington D.C., Houston, TX, St. Petersburg, FL, Woodland Park, CO, Statesville, NC, and Eau Claire, WI. Of the more memorable trips taken was a family vacation spent in Canada at Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, a comprehensive plantation bus tour with her daughter through the deep south, and a cruise to Bermuda with family and friends.
Caroline was also a homemaker during her work life and in retirement. She ran her own kitchen factory where the stove never went cold. In fact, one stove wasn’t enough; she duplicated her “factory” with another in the basement. She cooked for both family and friends sharing numerous Italian traditions such as her famous sauce, wedding soup, pasta fagioli, lasagna, pepperoni roll, pies, cakes, cookies, kolachi, pizzelle, and dozens more items. She always cooked and made food for family and friends in their times of need and loss without ever being asked in the traditional Italian way.
Caroline was one of the most compassionate, kind, loving, generous and selfless persons you could meet. She gave freely of herself to so many, both in and outside of family. She cared for her husband after his disability, took in and cared for her niece Karen after the untimely death of her brother Samuel, cared for her severely injured son Mark after being involved in a nearly fatal car accident, hosted countless holiday gatherings and family picnics, and always fought with family and friends insisting she pick up the tab when dining out. She also developed and maintained many close and special friendships that she cherished throughout the years.
In addition to her parents, Caroline was preceded in death by her husband, Richard Knafels who passed away January 6, 1989. She was also preceded in death by her four brothers and sisters-in-law, Samuel (former wife Viola), Joseph (Stella) Gentile, Frank (Helen) Gentile, and James (Linda) Gentile.
Caroline leaves behind her daughter Catherine Breneman (late Joseph Breneman) of Austintown, OH, grand stepson John Breneman of Newark, OH, Catherine’s fiancée Jim Becker of West Middlesex, PA, her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson Ronald (Cindy) and Luke Knafels of Rockville, MD, her son Mark Knafels of Austintown, OH, niece Lisa (Michael) Gentile-Morris, nephew Gary (Toni) Gentile, all of Statesville, NC, niece Sharon “Sandy” Gentile of Woodland Park, CO, niece Karen (George) Soldo of Massillon, OH, niece Sharon Gentile of Youngstown, OH, nieces Cindy Gentile and Debbie (Chris) Kust and nephews Joey and Patrick Gentile all of Campbell, OH.
She also leaves behind great nieces and great nephews, Sherry (Dave) Gordon, Angelina Gentile, Primo Gentile, Cecily Kust, Gus Kust, Jon Gentile (late), all of Campbell, OH, Amy (James) Huston of Canton, OH, Michael (Rachel) Soldo of Springfield, OH, Anthony (Breanne) Gentile of Matthews, NC, John Gentile of Statesville, NC, and Melissa Gentile of Auckland, New Zealand.
Caroline was of the Catholic Faith and former member of Holy Name of Jesus Parish before transferring to Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish after moving to Austintown in 2012. Per her wishes Caroline will be laid to rest alongside her husband at St. John’s Cemetery in Lowellville, Ohio. A private family only service was held Saturday, December 5, 2020.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a complete and full celebration of Caroline’s life will be held at a later date in 2021. Notifications will be sent out well in advance with location, date and time. A reception for family and friends will also be held after the service.
Special thanks go out to the nurses, STNA’s, social workers, and support staff at Antonine Village, Briarfield Manor, and Hospice of the Valley for the kindness and level of care Caroline received while she suffered from dementia.
No contributions or memorials are being requested. We ask only for Prayers and keeping Caroline and her Spirit in your memory.
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