Derele Wilson Knepper, 84, died on Thursday, March 25, at Good Shepherd Homecare and Hospice in Manhattan, following a short battle with cancer.
Born on July 10, 1936, Derele grew up in Clay Center, working at The Clay Center Dispatch as a newspaper carrier, before becoming sports editor while still in high school. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Navy, attaining the rank of yeoman on the USS Harry F. Bauer DM-26. Following the service, he attended Kansas University and Southern Methodist University, before returning to a career in journalism that took him across the Midwest, including The Newton Kansan, where he was an assistant editor. His journalism career put him in touch with a number of celebrities over the years, including Forrest “Phog” Allen, Wilt Chamberlain and John F. Kennedy. He often joked how Joe DiMaggio had offered to pay his speeding ticket at Fort Leavenworth after he got a late start to their interview. After retirement, Derele and his family moved to Clay Center, where he farmed and volunteered in the community.
He was a member of Disabled American Veterans, KU Alumni Association, Clay Center Lions Club and was a past commander and chaplain at American Legion Alonzo Dexter Post 101. He actively supported area Boy Scouts and the Clay Center Boy Scout cabin was put in his name in 2014.
Derele married Virginia Rose Nash on July 10, 1962, in Leavenworth. She preceded him in death in 1992.
He is survived by his children, Ken (Lori) Knepper of Newton and Darla (Kevin) Flickinger of Manhattan. He also is survived by five grandchildren, Joshua and Virginia Flickinger, Brandon Cheek, Breanna Burch and Brett Knepper, along with two great-grandchildren, Keaton Stribling and Brynlee Burch.
Respect calls will take place from 4-6 p.m., Friday, April 2, at Neill-Schwenson-Rook Funeral Home with family present. Services will be at 11 a.m., Saturday, April 3, at the United Methodist Church in Clay Center. Wearing masks is requested. Burial with military honors will take place at Greenwood Cemetery. Memorial contributions in his name and in the care of Neill-Schwensen-Rook Funeral Home may be made to American Legion Post 101, Clay Center United Methodist Church or Clay Center Boy Scout Troop 54. See his full obituary at www.NSRFH.com.