The quality I admire most in writers is their passion for their work and their causes. We’re all Don Quixote fighting huge windmills, doing our bit to make the world a little better and inspire others. Herb Knoll is a great example, devoting much of his life to a cause few think about, even though it is too close to us. For some of us ‘he-men’, (ha ha!), it is our greatest fear. Herb Knoll offers help and hope.
There are 2.7 million widowers in America, 420,000 new widowers each year. One in five men will be widowed and 65% of widowed men will experience a life-threatening illness within twelve months. As Herb explains, widowers experience a wide variety of challenges: health problems, loss of faith, financial set-backs, problems with relationships, careers, raising children, dating, and more, “not to mention, grief.” It is eye-opening to realize that the suicide rate among widowers is 3-4 times higher than that of married men. It is to help these vulnerable men that Herb runs the Widowers Support Network, which provides free services to widowers, and has written The Widowers Journey. As Herb says, “America’s widowers need help. Unfortunately, few resources are available to them.”
We tend to think of men as strong and independent, the truth is we’re far more vulnerable than we appear. So, what inspired Herb to accept this mission?
Following the passing of my bride, Michelle, at age 52, from pancreatic cancer, in 2008, I needed help in dealing with my grief. Among those I sought assistance from was my local Barnes & Noble bookstore. When I asked a clerk what he had for a new widower, he typed “widower” into his computer’s search engine. He then looked up at me and said, “Mister, I don’t have a thing for you.”
NOT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER
Many would have accepted that response, but not Herb. He asked himself, “How could this be? Nothing?” As he explains it, “Having been published in the past, it occurred to me that someone needed to write a book for America’s widowers, and that person was me.” But would he stick with such a daunting challenge. “Within a year, I resigned my position as a senior bank executive and dedicated my life to serving America’s widowers.” And from a terrible life-changing event, a mission was born, but what gave him the strength and ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ to accomplish his dream?
Herb was born the ninth of eleven children in Buffalo, New York. Before he was able to graduate high school, he was activated in the army reserves and served as a Drill Sergeant from 1967 to 1973. His determination compelled him to later attend college courses at night, “and with the support of several wonderful superiors”, he was able to rise from the ‘bottom’, to the presidency of a bank in central Florida.
Herb has a history of overcoming hurdles. He says as a youth, he stuttered, yet became a professional speaker (my professional hobby,), who frequently addressed conventions, corporate meetings and university audiences.” His book, The Total Executive, (1986), became a three-part series produced by PBS affiliate WNED-TV entitled, Today’s Executive, and he was featured as the sole on-air personality speaking before a live audience. He was also the spokesman in Marketplace Bank television commercials when he served as its president. In 1991, he was inducted into the Buffalo/Niagara Sales & Marketing Executives International Hall of Fame. World-class designer Piero Di Mitri presented him with the first ever Di Mitri Executive Image Award, presented by supermodel/actress Jennifer O’Neill and multi-Grammy Award winner, Wynton Marsalis.” I think his greatest reward is knowing he has helped countless men who share his loss:
“My life’s work is more than the nine years I spent researching the world widowed men inherit, or the 102,000 words I wrote, or the 59,000 words I chose for my book. My calling is one of having developed a deep compassion for the men who suffer in the shadows of a society that has failed them. Whether you speak of our houses of worship, our Federal, State and local governments or the neighbors next door, widowed men have been left to their own resources.”
WORKING FOR CHANGE
Herb believes our view of men has to change. “They just don’t believe they have permission to grieve. The trauma imposed unto men will continue as long as we keep teaching our young male children that “Boys don’t cry.” The injustice imposed on widowed men will continue to manifest itself as long as we hold men to a different standard.”
THE WIDOWER’S JOURNEY
Once he recognized his calling, Herb wanted to write a practical book: “Widowed men aren’t interested in a lot of theory. They want actionable steps they can call upon to accelerate their recovery.” He believes men learn best from those who’ve experienced this loss. “With forty+ widowed men (three of them double widowers) volunteering their insights and best practices to the pages of The Widower’s Journey, widowers are sure to find answers to the questions that keep them up at night.” He also presents experts in the field: “The Widower’s Journey validates the words offered by its contributing widowers with contributions from fifteen subject matter experts from the fields of psychology, sociology, personal finance, law, religion and more.”
Herb invites you to learn more at WidowersSupportNetwork.com, his Facebook site, Widowers Support Network, and a second Facebook site exclusively for widowed men and those men with seriously ill spouses, Widowers Support Network – Members Only. His book, The Widower’s Journey is available on Amazon.com in paperback and digital formats. And he invites men in The Villages to attend his free monthly meetings with fellow widowers, September thru May, right here in The Villages. Contact him at [email protected] or by calling 615.579.8136.
As a widower, Herb was able to rediscover love when he met Maria a few years after Michelle passed away. Maria and Herb were married in 2011. “I have been blessed in so many ways. While I enjoyed a remarkable life and career for which I am grateful, serving widowers and those who love them is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done.”
At the beginning of this article I stated the thing I admire most about writers is their ‘passion’…I was wrong, it’s their ‘compassion’, how much they care. If you want to learn more about our compassionate Villager writers, please visit www.wlov.org for a directory of our authors and their books, as well as a list of local writing clubs that will help you express your passion in writing. If you know a middle or high school student that loves writing, tell them about the Florida Writers Association Youth program (www.floridayouthwriters.org) where compassionate authors help them achieve success.
Mark H. Newhouse authored the award-winning comical mysteries, Welcome to Monstrovia; The Case of the Disastrous Dragon; and the new, Case of the Crazy Chickenscratches. Founding president of Writers League of The Villages, and the Central Florida Book & Author Expo, December 8, 2018, at the Eisenhower Recreation Center, he invites you to share suggestions and questions by contacting him at www.aimhipress.com.
Reprinted with permission of Village Neighbors Magazine – August 2018