By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
NO matter who you asked, everybody had a different version of how they remembered the legendary Sir Durward ‘Sea Wolf’ Knowles.
The Bahamian icon, who celebrated his 100th birthday on November 2 as the oldest living Olympic gold medallist, passed away on Saturday, surrounded by his family and his minister in his room at Doctor’s Hospital.
Said immediate past Bahamas Olympic Committee president Wellington Miller, who served with Knowles as vice president under the presidency of the late Sir Arlington Butler:
“Last month a French journalist came to the Bahamas and I took him to interview Sir Durward on being the oldest Olympic living gold medallist,” Miller said. “That article was to be published in the magazine for the 2020 Olympics and I remember during the interview, Sir Durward told him that he was going to be at the games where he will get to go back to the place where he won the gold medal with the late Cecil Cooke in 1964.”
Had he survived to see the games, Miller said it would have been momentous for the Bahamas. “I know he wanted to be there, but unfortunately that won’t happen,” Miller said. But having had the opportunity to work with Knowles at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, Miller said the BOC was short by $40,000 to carry the team, Miller said Butler advised him to speak to Knowles, who was able to raise the funding for the team to travel by the next day.
As life went on, Miller said he got to work even closer with Knowles and they developed a bond as they continued their work, even up to the time that he was elected as president, replacing Butler.
As a philanthropist, Miller said he got to watch as Knowles made countless contributions to so many people who needed his help.
Knowles, who was also a great humanitarian, who always had something witty to say to those he came in contact with, had a personal friendship with former Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ president Mike Sands, whose relationships grew from the time that was selling newspaper on Shirley Street as a youngster.
“I had a chance to visit him and wished him a Happy birthday when he turned 100,” Knowles stressed. “It was just a honor to be in his company.”
While he admits that time would not permit for him to talk about the relationship they shared when I was much younger,” Sands said he couldn’t a Bahamian who was as committed and dedicated to the growth and development of the country as Knowles.
“One day were at a meeting and he asked me to give him a drop home,” Sands said. “I member as were driving, I said to Sir Durward how things have changed on the island,” Sands said. “As we continued driving, he showed me and some places. He asked me if I had a cell phone and he asked me to call his wife, Hollie, to let her know that he was on his way home. He jokingly said it’s amazing how one can be driving and talking on the cell phone at the same time.”
On many occasions that he visited Knowles at his office, Sands said he always found him engaged in assisting one Bahamian after another.
“I had the opportunity visit him while he was in hospital and as I was leaving, I quoted him from his book ‘Never Give Up,’ Sands reflected. “So as I was leaving, I told him ‘Never Give Up.’ Those were last memories that Sands said he had with Knowles and he was delighted that he did.
Danny Strachan, the chairman and commodore of the National Family Island Regatta, said their organization has lost a great friend and benefactor.
“Others will speak of his contributions to civic society and to his Faith Community as is appropriate,” said Strachan, who gave condolences on behalf of his family. “I know that I speak on behalf of sailors, sloop builders, boat owners and sailing fans throughout the Bahamas when I say that we have all lost a true great friend. He was a sporting icon, philanthropist extraordinaire, national here of the first order and a beloved Bahamian patriarch.”
At one point, Strachan called upon the Bahamas Government to bestow a well deserved honor on Knowles by placing his image on the Bahamian $100 currency and to name the passage of sea from Montagu to the eastern shores, the Sir Durward Knowles Shores or PassageHarbour.
Neither has become a reality, but the government did recognize Knowles for his achievement in 1996 when he was knighted by the Queen. In 1997, he was awarded The Bahamas’ Order of Merit. In 2014, the second Legend-class patrol boat of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force was commissioned as HMBS Durward Knowles.
In May 2016, following the death of Sandor Tarics, Knowles became the oldest living Olympic champion. That claim now gets passed on to Finnish skier Lydia Wideman, age 97, who competed at the Oslo 1952 Olympics.
Knowles earned Bahamian history when he and the late Sloane Farrington won the country’s first Olympic Medal, a Bronze at the Melbourne 1956 Olympics. He ultimately claimed the top Olympic prize in 1964, when he won a Gold Medal with Cooke as crew at the Tokyo Games. Knowles would go on to participate in the total of eight Olympics - seven straight from 1948-1972, and again in 1988 in Seoul where he was flag bearer during the opening ceremonies for an Independent Bahamas.
Knowles also captured four medals, including a gold, a silver and two bronze at the World Championships and several gold medals at the Pan American and the Central American and Caribbean Games.
The Association of Bahamas Marinas, of which Knowles became a member, expressed their gratitude to Knowles, who had some remarkable accomplishments, competing with Basil Kelly, Farrington, Cooke and even his stepbrother, Percy.
“It is for these remarkable accomplishments, all achieved on the ocean waters of the world, that the Association of Bahamas Marinas invited Sir Durward to join us as an honorary Voyager member, a category of membership through which we embrace seafarers,” said Basil Smith, on behalf of the ABM.
“Our association mourns the loss of this distinguished member and great Bahamian, even as we celebrate his long and distinguished life. We extend condolences to Lady Knowles, his family and his wide circle of friends.”
Knowles is survived by his wife, wife Lady Holly and children, Randy, Jill and Charlotte.