VERSAILLES — Steve Knapke is remembered as a quiet man with a strong voice for the mission of blood donations. But his family believes the show of support by the Versailles community for the September 18 blood drive in his honor might have left Steve speechless.
Steve was inspired to become a blood donor after surviving a 1988 accident caused by an impaired truck driver. He was struck again by an impaired driver on Sept. 11, 2016, an accident that claimed his life and seriously injured his wife Lois.
The Knapke family joined forces with the annual Versailles Poultry Days Committee and Community Blood Center to host the “Steve Knapke Memorial Blood Drive” at the Versailles Knights of Columbus Hall. Donor registrations rose 20 percent to 176 donors, including 23 first-time donors. The number of donations increased nearly 30 percent to 157.
“The people in this community are amazing,” said Lois, who has recovered from a broken back, but still suffers headaches. “I never know how to thank people for all they’ve done for us. Steve was a quiet man. He wouldn’t believe this!”
Steve was a platelet donor with 81 lifetime donations. There were also eight apheresis donations Monday in his honor.
The Knapke family hoped to continue Steve’s legacy of giving blood by encouraging others to donate. His son Doug and daughters Rachel Durham, Lisa DiRenzo and Emmy D’Antonio helped organize the blood drive. They were surprised how quickly the word spread on social media.
“I think it affected a lot of people,” said Rachel, who like her mother, Lois, is a registered nurse. “A lot of people have an emotional attachment to it. They wanted to give blood in his name.”
“I normally do donate,” said donor Laura Wolters. “But it always has been on my radar. Lois was my school nurse at Versailles High School.”
Lois found a particularly poignant way to remember Steve. She had several stuffed teddy bears made for their grandchildren using Steve’s blood donor t-shirts. One went to Doug and Megan Knapke’s five-month-old son Max, a grandchild Steve never got to meet.
“This was the hardest me, that it happened to him two times,” Steve’s sister Kathy Re said about the two accidents. They were the middle children among 11 siblings and they would often donate together.
“I’d like to see something good come out of it,” she said as she made her 76th lifetime donation in Steve’s memory. “That’s what I’m hoping. He was a good guy. He looked after me and took care of me.”
Learn more at www.GivingBlood.org.