Obituaries: Gilbert and Knight

January 24, 2003
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Robert Gilbert

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Robert Beach Gilbert, 78, died Jan. 8, 2003, at Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith. He was a leader in the HVAC industry.

In 1977, Mr. Gilbert was named vice president and general manager of Rheem’s Air Conditioning Division.

He was president of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association and served as a director on a number of corporate and charitable governing boards, including the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, Sparks Health System Foundation, Reynolds Cancer Support House, Girls Incorporated of Fort Smith, the Salvation Army, the Fort Smith Chorale, Old Fort Smith Museum, Hardscrabble Country Club, Superior Federal Bank, Treadco Inc., and Weldon Williams & Lick.

Mr. Gilbert was a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fort Smith and was a veteran of World War II, serving in the Navy as an aviator. He is survived by three daughters, Beth (Wray), Cathy (Stjernberg), and Gayle (Smith), and two grandsons.

Clifford Knight

JACKSON, Mich. — Clifford Knight, 98, a pioneer in the air conditioning industry, passed away Jan. 4, 2003, at Vista Grande Villa here in Jackson.

He was the third son in a family of eight and grew up on the family farm. Mr. Knight’s career started in the early 1920s, when he worked in refrigeration sales in Fort Wayne, Ind., for the Refrigeration Equipment Company and then in Kendallville, Ind., for the McCray Company.

After leaving McCray in 1947, he became vice president of Betz Corp. in Hammond, Ind. In 1951 he came to work for Primus Company in Addison, Mich. By 1963 he owned the company and changed its name to Addison Products.

Addison Products develops and builds dehumidifiers, room air conditioners, residential and commercial air conditioning, and space heaters. Mr. Knight held many A/C patents and belonged to several industry organizations.

He learned to fly at an early age and held a pilot’s license for more than 50 years.

Among his many honors, Mr. Knight was a trustee at Adrian College and he received honorary degrees from that college and from Hillsdale College.

Mr. Knight established scholarships in honor of his wife, Velma, at Adrian College, Hillsdale College, Spring Arbor College, and Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo. The Knight Family Charitable & Educational Foundation was established in 1984.

His wife, Velma Irene Cain, preceded him in death in 1980. He was also preceded in death by his son, James A. Knight. Mr. Knight is survived by his daughter, Marilyn K. Underhill, eight grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, sister Marjorie Gard, and many nieces and nephews.

Publication date: 01/27/2003

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