Community Gem: Duke Knake does woodworking projects for folks long after retirement

Julius "Duke' Knake works in his woodshop at his home in Huber Heights. Knake does woodworking and light metal work free for People who need it. MARSHAL GORBY\STAFF
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Julius "Duke' Knake works in his woodshop at his home in Huber Heights. Knake does woodworking and light metal work free for People who need it. MARSHAL GORBY\STAFF

HUBER HEIGHTS — Julius “Duke” Knake, 96, of Huber Heights retired a long time ago but he still spends most days in his woodworking shop doing projects for people who need the help.

“All of my work is free, gratis,” said Knake. “I do furniture repair or make it. I used to charge until about 3 years ago and I got to where if people will get the material I will install and do the work for free.”

“I found out a lot of these elderly people, especially the women who live alone they don’t know who to get to do this work,” Knake said. “They found out I’m honest with everybody. At this point I don’t need the extra money to live on and so I say, ‘These people need help.’”

Knake was nominated as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem by his long time neighbor and friend Judy Miller.

“Julius is the Guardian Angel of the neighborhood,” Miller said. “And he took excellent care of his wife during her Illness. The list goes on. This gentleman is 96 years young.”

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Knake said his wife passed away in March 2008 after a long illness. She was able to avoid going into a nursing facility because he set up a bed in the living room and purchased a lift and other equipment so she could say at home for the eight years of her illness.

Knake founded his commercial contracting company, J.H. Knake Co., in 1960 in the Dayton area and dissolved it in the late 1990s.

“I thought I was (retired) until people found out I can do all of this home repair work,” Knake said, “I stay busy all the time.”

When he heard Miller nominated him to be a Community Gem he said, “ I just kind of grinned a little bit. I said ’I don’t know what will become of it.’”

When Miller broke her ankle Knake said he helped out by picking up her newspaper and mail each day. He recently he repaired a ceiling fan for her.

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the amount of jobs he has coming in but he said he still gets calls from people who need woodwork or light metal work done.

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“I’m 96 and I’ll be 97 in April. I just keep active all the time. I just keep a’movin’,” said Knake. “I don’t eat out much. I do all my own cooking and try to eat decent and I just keep plugging away.”


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