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]