Jack Kniskern – the man who helped design Des Moines – has passed at 91


Sadly, longtime Des Moines resident and local icon Jack Kniskern passed away at the age of 91 on Dec. 21.

A memorial is planned for Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 at 1 p.m. at Des Moines United Methodist Church.

Jack worked as an Architect, and he designed many buildings in the city, including the very City Hall where he was honored in 2012 (pictured, above). He was also an M.I.T. Grad.

He joined the Des Moines Rotary in 1958, and has been a member ever since – that’s 59 years of service!

He also served on the Des Moines City Council, for the Waterland Parade, was on the board for Wesley Homes, the Planning Commission, County Board of Adjustment, Board of Trustees for Highline Community College, founded the Aspirational Society, and was an ardent community leader who worked to help improve his community and the world.

In retirement, Jack spent many years fostering and promoting sister city relationships and the understanding of other cultures.

Jack was the senior member of the local Rotary Club.

“Though Jack will be irreplaceable in our community and our club, his ideals and actions remain a cornerstone for the goodwill fostered by Rotary of Des Moines/Normandy Park,” fellow Rotarian Blake Messer said. “Jack’s incredible positivity, devotion to others and his desire to bring different people to the same table will remain a key part of our club’s work. Our club will turn 60 in 2018, and Jack has been a critical part of it for almost every inch of those 60 years. As a club, we intend to stand on the shoulders of the good work of Jack Kniskern.”

Here’s a tribute from fellow Rotarian, Catherine Carbone Rogers:

Jack Kniskern was a Big Idea guy whose one big goal in life was to connect people and organizations in service of the community. He was devoted to what he called Community Betterment, and he coined many catch phrases and acronyms to promote this cause. He truly believed that world peace was achievable through grassroots Community Betterment efforts, and he frequently asked pointedly, “Why shouldn’t it start in Des Moines?”

Jack was one of the earliest members of the Rotary Club of Des Moines (now Des Moines and Normandy Park), joining shortly after the club was charted in 1958. He initiated the Club’s dictionary project, which annually gives a hardback illustrated children’s dictionary to every third grader in every public school in Des Moines and Normandy Park.

Jack often invited friends and fellow Rotarians to his home to discuss his ideas for Community Betterment. In recent years, he acknowledged that he was less able to actively perform the service work to which he was so committed, but he never let up on his drive to share his ideas, or as he said “plant seeds,” that he hoped would spur others to act and result in deeper human connections, a stronger community, and ultimately a more peaceful world.

Jack invited Brian Snure’s Dad Clark to join Rotary in the early 70’s, then also invited Brian into the club in the early 90’s.

“Jack contributed amazing amounts of time and energy to make Des Moines a better place to live as a Rotarian, a resident and a business owner,” Snure added. “So take some time this holiday season, look to the sky and share a toast to Community Betterment and all that Jack stood for!”


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