Remembering Jim Knutson

!cid_563BB80B-328C-41B8-8F84-134845403CB0@BelkinBY KIERAN FRAZIER KNUTSON

My dad, James H. Knutson, passed away today from acute erythroid leukemia. He was with family and the arias of  Leontyne Price. He married my mom when I was a little boy and was a great father to me and my sister, Katrina. He was the grandson of Norwegian immigrants. His father was a railroad worker and veteran of WWII. His mother was a strong and smart woman who taught him the joys of reading. He grew up in Green Bay, Wis., with three sisters. He was a survivor of brain surgery and lived with epilepsy his entire adult life.
He was a musician—in his high school band, church youth choir, and later, in the ’60s, on the streets and some nightclubs in Europe and the Middle East, and later still, for countless Movement events back in the U.S. Even though he had seen Hendrix and Dylan back in the day, he favored classical music. He was a dedicated supporter of the Minnesota Orchestra (and the Musicians Union) and also loved Folk Opera and Broadway Musicals.
My dad was an activist for peace and justice, an advocate of socialism, and a participant in many movements. He had a natural gift for talking to all kinds of people, which made him a good organizer. I remember particularly watching him work to build a strong anti-racist movement of parents in the early ’80s to oppose the closing of Central High School and many other schools across the city (and the imposition of retrograde, strict disciplinary programs on inner-city kids at schools like Wilder). The struggle was lost, but the memory of a grassroots multiracial people’s movement sticks with me ’til today.
Jim was a world traveler. In his 20s he hitch-hiked, washed dishes and played his guitar through many cities in Europe and also the Middle East. His travels further opened his eyes to systems of social injustice and made him a strong internationalist. Later in life he was able to travel and see more of the world with my mother.
My dad was a hard worker, mainly 3rd shift work, as a computer operator at World Book Encyclopedia in Chicago and later Pako Industries in Golden Valley (laid off during the Reagan Recession) and finally at the Star Tribune. He witnessed firsthand the evolution of computers. Initially computer operators were very blue collar—machine operators changing huge reels of tape in rooms so loud you wore ear protection (I went with him to work a few times). He mainly hated his work and often personally detested his bosses, but he kept working those jobs to support our family.
He always was around and respected strong women: his mom, his aunts and his sisters, Sylvia Woods and Peggy Lischutz, in  Chicago. So it makes sense he would fall in love with my mother, April. He loved my mom very much. He was proud of her intelligence and achievements. He looked up to her, I think.
He and his family always treated me as exactly a part of the family and loved me like a true son. He adored my sister, Katrina, and followed her art and adventures with great interest and support. He always had our backs—in dealingwith neighborhood bullies, the cops or prosecutors.
He loved and respected my partner, Tricia. He was a good grandfather, aka “Papa,” to Sasha and Kaelan. He did a great deal of childcare after he retired, so that I could work and Tricia could go to nursing school.
His last goal in life was to accompany Katrina on her wedding day—and my sister married Ty Yule (someone he was very fond of and thought was a good fit for my sister) a couple weeks ago.
He also really loved his big dog (half golden retriever/half elk), Theo.
I learned a lot from him and will miss him greatly.
Jim, Presente! SKOL, Jim!
The following was included in the Star Tribune Obituary:  Jim ran for Minneapolis School Board in the early ’80s with the backing of the Farmer-Labor Association. Jim was a member of the Communist Party USA for 20 years—he left over the lack of internal democracy and other issues in 1991, but he remained an advocate of socialism.
Memorial service is on Saturday, April 18, at 5 p.m. at Walker Church, 3104 16th Ave. S.
In lieu of memorials, donations may be sent to The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, Twin Cities Musicians Union, Local 30-73 (708 N. 1st St. #CR 31, Mpls., MN 55401).
If people want to send regards to April Knutson, her address is 3744 Garfield Ave. S, Mpls., MN 55409.


  1. Pingback: April Knutson: Building United Fronts for Paix et Égalité – MINNEAPOLIS INTERVIEW PROJECT

  2. Hі there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let
    you know a few of the piϲtures aren’t loɑding
    properⅼy. I’m not ѕure wһy but I think its a linking issue.

    Ι’ve tried it in two different broѡsers аnd both shoԝ the same outcome.

Comments are closed