200 Pay Respects At Knight Service

PLYMOUTH – Actor Ted Knight had many friends and over 200 of them paid their respects to the Terryville native during a memorial Mass this morning at St. Casimir Church.

They gathered together at the hour­long service in the same church where he was baptized 61 years ago to remember Knight, a man who touched so many in a community that he so loved.

An autographed photograph of Knight was placed near flowers before the altar. Several of his first cousins-Matilda, Eugene, Joseph, Henry, Connie and Jenny, among others-were scattered throughout the church.

“Ted showed us that a life rich in faith and friendship is the very best,” said the Rev. Stephen Ptaszynski, who delivered the homily. “We should be proud that he was a part of our parish family.”

Knight died of cancer at his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., last Tuesday. He was 62.

Knight, a nationally known TV celebrity, was born Dec. 7, 1923, as Tadeus Wladyslaw Konopka at 18 Allen St., across from St. Casimir. He attended Prospect and East Main Street schools and was a 1943 graduate of Terryville High School.

In the 15 minute homily, Ptaszynski said Knight’s greatest legacy was his friends. The large number of friends and relatives at the memorial Mass proved “that he was much loved,” he said.

Ptaszynski said an individual once asked automobile magnate Henry Ford if there was anything the multi­millionaire wished he had.

Ford was said to reply, ” ‘If I had my life to live all over again, I would go out hunting for friends,'” Ptaszynski said. “The lament Henry Ford had presents a great insight into life. What Henry Ford was searching for and probably didn’t attain, Ted Knight did.

“A life without friends is incomplete,” he said.

Throughout the service, the actor was mentioned by his stage name followed by the Polish name he was born with-Tadeus Konopka-a reflection of the deep ties Knight had with his close­knit family here.

Ptaszynski said he remembered the day 10 years ago when Knight sat in the front row of his church in a Mass for his Aunt Mary Kovaleski.

“He was first and foremost a family man,” he said.

During that week in June 1976, he was the guest of honor at a testimonial held in Terryville High School by over 500 relatives and friends. The testimonial followed the town’s bicentennial parade, in which Knight was grand marshal.

Ptaszynski also mentioned the number of people who paid tribute to Knight at a Mass said for him in California last week. Telegrams from President and First Lady Nancy Reagan, Walter Cronkite and several of the many actors and actresses who worked with him were read, he said.

Reciting some of them along with some remarks said at last week’s Mass, Ptaszynski brought smiles to many of Knight’s friends and family members by referring to Knight as the “anchorman in heaven,” who was “the legacy of laughter.”

“His love,” he said, playing on the title of the TV show he starred in, “was never too close for comfort. ”

After graduating from Terryville High, Knight served in World War II and was among the first American troops to enter Berlin. He received five Bronze Stars.

After the war, Knight began an illustrious career that would win him two Emmy awards.

He started his acting career in 1946, entering the Randall School of Dramatic Arts where he performed in such productions as “Antigone,” “Time of Your Life,” “Grand Hotel,” and “Liliom.”

After three years in Hartford, he became a disc jockey, announcer, singer and pantomimist for various radio and television stations, including a station in Providence, R.I., where he created his own children’s show.

Later, he studied acting at the American Theater Wing in New York.

Included among some of the earlier shows he acted in are “The Lux Video Theater,” “Suspense” and “Our Gal Sunday. ”

In 1957, Knight moved to Los Angeles where he appeared in over 300 roles on various commercials and television shows, including “Gunsmoke,” “The F.B.I.” and “Get Smart.”

But Knight was best known for his portrayal of Ted Baxter, the arrogant anchorman on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Now considered a classic among American comedy shows, the Baxter character brought Knight fame.

In 1973 and 1976 he won Emmys for outstanding actor in a supporting role in comedy.

In 1978, he starred in his own show, “The Ted Knight Show,” and later played a middle­aged illustrator from 1980­83 on “Too Close for Comfort.”

That show was in syndication when Knight died. He was scheduled to start filming a new season last month but his doctors told him not to work.

Knight and his wife of more than 30 years have two sons and a daughter. The family is asking that memorial contributions be sent to the Price­Potenger Foundation for the Ted Knight Memorial Fund, a funding source for films on children’s nutrition and natural lifestyles. The address is P.O. Box 2614, La Mesa, Cal, 92041.

[The Bristol Press, Wednesday, September 3, 1986]

Terryville Recalls Favorite Son Fondly


PLYMOUTH-The nation knew him as Ted Baxter, the bumbling newscaster on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, but Terryville will always remember him as Teddy Konopka, the bright, young Polish boy who worked his way to Hollywood and made it big.

Ted Knight, Terryville’s favorite son, died of cancer Tuesday at his Pacific Palisades home, his wife and three children at his side. He was 62.

He was born Dec. 7, 1923, on Allen Street in Terryville as Tadeus Wladyslaw Konopka. Town residents and family said this morning that Knight never forgot his Polish heritage or his roots.

Most fondly remember the day when in 1976, when he returned here and was the Grand Marshal for the town’s bicentennial parade. During the festivities over 500 Terryville residents celebrated his success at a testimonial dinner that was sold out three months in advance.

“Everyone knew Ted, of course, as the showman,” the actor’s cousin, Matilda Levandoski, of Plymouth said this morning. “But he was a family person too. He loved his family very, very much and he was always proud of being from Terryville.”

Knight was hospitalized last year for removal of a cancerous growth from his urinary tract. Levandoski said he had been ill with cancer for some time. He returned to the hospital earlier this month for treatments, she said.

Family members had planned to visit Knight in September, Levandoski said, estimating that Knight had 80­100 relatives in the Plymouth­Bristol­Waterbury area.

“He was proud to be from this town. It didn’t matter to him that he was from a small town. Anybody could talk to him,” Mayor Donna Warkoski said this morning. “He was so proud of his heritage. ”

Warkoski said flags at town offices would fly at half mast until Friday when a private memorial service will be held in the Los Angeles area.

Knight was raised at a small house at 18 Allen St. His father was a Polish immigrant and was a bartender in town for many years. His mother was a housewife.

He graduated from Terryville High School in 1943. Henry Kornacki, a lifelong friend of Knight’s, who was the toastmaster at the testimonial dinner in 1976, said he best remembers Knight “as an incredibly fun­loving person.”

Kornacki, who attended grade school to high school with Knight, said he knew when they were in high school that his friend would have a future in show business.

“He was always pulling jokes and mimicking people. He was a great imitator,” he said. “He was always a very bright person. The town will miss him dearly. ”

The parade and testimonial dinner, he said, “were shining moments in Terryville history.”


Kornacki said he and Knight and their other school friends separated after graduating from high school, entering the service.

Knight received five battle stars during World War II and was one of the first Allied soldiers to enter Berlin.

Knight was also a boyhood friend of Charles Freimuth Jr., Terryville’s former fire chief, who visited Knight in 1984. Warkoski said at the time, Knight told Freimuth that he would try to make it back to his hometown to serve as the grand marshal of the Plymouth Fire Department’s 75th anniversary parade this year.

“He was just a great guy, very warm,” said Helen Grabowski, who co­chaired the 1976 testimonial dinner. “He had a fantastic memory. All along the parade route he would say hi to people and he knew everyone by their first name.”

“What impressed me the most was that he was away for so many years. but when he was here, he still knew everyone and was so friendly,” said Father Steve Ptaszynski of St. Casmir’s, the church he attended when visiting family here.

In March 1984, Knight appeared with Lucy Dukenski, a former Terryville school teacher, on the television program “This is your Life.”

Dukenski said this morning that she was considered Knight’s favorite teacher. Now retired and living in Stratford, she said Knight referred to her as “the first love of my life.”

She said she was shocked to hear about his death.

“He was such a beautiful person. I just tingled every time I saw him,” she said. Dukenski said she felt lucky because she was able to see him everyday from his television programs.

“We always exchanged Christmas cards. Sometimes there was a little note in Polish,” she said, adding that she had planned to write to him because she was concerned about his illness.

[The Bristol Press, Wednesday, August 27, 1986]