Olyce T. (Tom) Knight, a career Navy pilot and long-time resident of both Arizona and Northern Virginia, expired at the Solomons Nursing Center in Solomons, Md., on December 17 of complications from a major stroke suffered on December 5. He was a resident of the Washington area in 1947-48, from 1962-67, from 1970-73, and 2006 until his death. He was the father of former Falls Church Vice Mayor Gary D. Knight.
He served as the Chief of Staff to the Washington Naval District from 1965-1966. From 1967-1970, Mr. Knight served as the Defense and Naval Attache to the U.S. Ambassador to Chile in Santiago where, in 1969, he talked the Chilean military out of holding a coup against President Eduardo Frei. His last post was on the faculty of the Inter-American Defense College at Ft. McNair in Washington. He retired from the Navy as a Captain in 1972.
Mr. Knight was born on December 24, 1918, in Richland, NM, and moved to Arizona at a young age. He lived in St. Thomas and moved to Globe as a teenager. He played football and basketball at Globe High School and graduated second in his class. He played both sports, as well as boxed, at Arizona State Teacher’s College (now NAU) in Flagstaff and finished second in his class.
Upon the initiation of hostilities in 1941, Mr. Knight joined the Navy air corps. He flew long range navy seaplanes through both WWII and the Korean conflict. He was married in March, 1942. After WWII, he ran Purity Brands, a family business, but soon rejoined the naval service. He was the operations officer of the USS Greenwich Bay, ran the physical fitness program at a Navy pre-flight school, and commanded naval aviation squadrons in Texas and on the carrier Boxer. He served as the executive officer of the helicopter carrier Princeton. He served in the Pentagon, helping the Navy develop education programs worldwide. He headed the Athletic Boosters Club at J.E.B Stuart High School in Falls Church, leading the fund raising drive to install that school’s stadium lights.
Upon retirement, Mr. Knight and his wife moved to Tempe, Az. He was an ASU football season ticket holder from 1972 until 2004, was an avid golfer and gardener.
He is pre-deceased by his wife of 62 years, Mercedes A. Knight, and is survived by his offspring Thomas R. Knight (and wife Esther) of Tucson; Gary D. Knight (and spouse Brenda), of Solomons, Md.; and Nancy Knight Gordon of Falls Church. He is also survived by six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
His ashes will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery. Donations, in lieu of flowers, should be sent to the United Services Organization, P.O. Box 96860, Washington, DC 20077-7677.