Jim was born in 1929 in Brighton, Mass., to Elizabeth Dingwall and Frank M. Knott. Jim was the grandson of Annie Macmillan Knott, who was an early practitioner and the first woman Director of the Christian Science Church.
With an auspicious beginning, Jim had a competitive spirit from the start. He shined as a high school wrestler at the Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Mass., studied mechanical engineering at Northeastern University, and earned an economics degree from Harvard College, class of 1954. He then served three years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army where he earned the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service. Upon discharge, Jim founded Coatings Engineering Corporation (CEC) which he sold to the Gilbert & Bennett Mfg. Company (G & B) of Georgetown, Conn., in 1962. He was president of CEC and a director of G & B until 1978.
In the summer of 1947, one of many summers Jim would spend in Gloucester, Jim met his wife and life partner Betty Davis at the Rockport Art Association’s July 4th dance. They married in 1951 and moved to Wellesley where they raised four children. In Gloucester, Jim saw firsthand how much time lobster fishermen spent fixing their wooden traps. He was convinced there had to be a better way. So, he set out to build a more durable lobster trap to reduce the downtime for fishermen and improve their annual catch rate.
In 1979, Jim founded Riverdale Mills Corporation to manufacture Aquamesh®, the first-of-its-kind marine-grade coated wire mesh. Today 85 percent of all lobster traps in North America are made with Aquamesh. In 2006, Jim was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Maine for his “commitment to the future of the lobster industry, innovative spirit, perseverance and positive leadership, willingness to share his knowledge and ideas and his outstanding support of UMaine’s Lobster Institute.”
Jim was always concerned for the welfare of the community and the industries his business served. A much-loved leader, Jim was demanding, supportive and caring. His employees, many of whom have worked at Riverdale Mills for decades, loved his quiet, unique approach and novel ideas. He was a brilliant visionary and had a unique perspective on manufacturing. He was described as “one of those rare individuals who had the will, the intelligence and the guts to make a difference in this world.” Jim served as President and CEO of Riverdale Mills from 1979–2014.
Jim and Betty moved to Whitinsville in the town of Northbridge soon after founding Riverdale Mills. With his wife and sons in the business, Riverdale Mills grew to employ over 200 people in the Blackstone Valley. Jim loved the Whitinsville community and was instrumental in building a competition pool at the Whitin Community Center. He was also a great supporter of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Northbridge Elders, and Worcester County Jail and Correction Department.
An avid preservationist, Jim restored the beautiful Riverdale Mill and its hydropower, and many other historically significant properties including the John Adams farmhouse, Whitinsville’s Oakhurst Mansion, 1890 mill housing and a circa 1700s farm house in Sanbornton, N.H. His respect for nature was reflected in his restoration of the 19-acre Riverdale Pond adjacent to the mill, now home to fish, swans, and bald eagles. He was a collector of antique cars and military vehicles, and proudly drove them in many of the local parades.
He contributed to the care and conservation of many community structures and monuments. His deep connection to Gloucester is expressed through his contributions to the Cape Ann Animal Aid, the restoration of the schooner “Adventure,” and the realization of the Fishermen’s Wives Memorial. Jim was also a longtime member of the Eastern Point Yacht Club and the Harvard Club of Boston.
James Knott is predeceased by his cherished wife Betty, who died in February after 67 years of marriage, and is survived by his children, Janet L. Knott, Andrew M. Knott and his wife Jayne (Fifield) Knott, James M. Knott Jr. and his wife Gigi (Gao) Knott, Edward Jeffrey Knott and his wife Barbara (Glunn) Knott; and grandchildren Jennie L. Knott and her partner Philipp Bolt, Andrew M. Knott Jr. and his wife Angela (Jenkins) Knott, Nancy D. Knott and her fiancé Matthew J. Crescio, and Elissa E. Knott.
The Knott family wishes to express their gratitude for the many remarkable caregivers who assisted with Jim’s care.
Visiting hours in Northbridge will be held at the Carr Funeral Home, 24 Hill Street, Whitinsville, Mass., on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, from 4 to 7 pm. Visiting hours in Gloucester will be held at the Greely Funeral Home, 212 Washington Street, Gloucester, Mass., on Wednesday, August 29, 2018, from 5 to 7 pm. The graveside service and burial will be held at Seaside Cemetery at 94 Langsford Street, Gloucester, Mass., on Thursday, August 30, 2018, at 11 a.m.
Flowers can be sent to either location, or a donation in honor of Jim can be made to the Whitin Community Center, 50 Main Street, Whitinsville, MA 01588, or the Cape Ann Animal Aid, 4 Paws Lane, Gloucester, MA 01930.
A celebration of Jim’s life will be held at the Whitin Lasell Manor at 120 Hill Street, Whitinsville, MA from 2 to 5 p.m., on Sunday, November 18, 2018. To leave a condolence for the family, please visit www.carrfuneralhome.com.
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