Rev. L. Jeannette Zimmer McKnight Obituary

Rev. L. Jeannette Zimmer McKnight

The Rev. L. Jeannette Zimmer McKnight died peacefully at Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend, Vermont on Dec. 20, 2021, at the age of 91, after a long and glorious life, dedicated to God and family. She was born on Sept. 28, 1930, in Utica, New York, the fourth of seven children of the late Homer Rozelle and Genevieve Maude Stoutengher Zimmer.

On September 3, 1950 she married the late Alfred Forrest McKnight, following his service in WWII. They made their home in Montpelier, Vermont, and in 1952, they moved to the Northeast Kingdom, first to St. Johnsbury and later to Lyndonville, where she raised her four children who graduated from Lyndon Institute.

During those years she was an active member of the United Methodist Church, where she was a lay speaker. She was also a volunteer in both the Daring Inn Convalescent and Retirement Home, and at the PineKnoll Nursing Home. Later, she was employed at the Darling Inn as the Activities Director, and also served as a lay-chaplain.

Two years after the death of her son, Richard, in 1976, she set about to become what she had always wanted and knew she was called to be. She was accepted as a Postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church, Diocese of Vermont. She attended Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor, Maine; and read for Holy Orders under the tutelage of the Rev. John Flora and the Rev. Donald Boyer. On June 9, 1981, she was ordained to the Diaconate at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in St. Johnsbury. Her ordination to the priesthood took place in St. Peter’s Episcopal Mission, Lyndonville, Vermont, February 11, 1983. A quiet pioneer, she became the first woman Episcopal priest in the State of Vermont to have her own parish (at St. Peter’s) and to be paid a stipend.

For the next few years she served as Vicar for St. Peter’s, Sacramentalist for Christ Church, Island Pond, VT, Pastoral Care for St. James, Concord, and St. Andrews, St. Johnsbury, VT. She was also employed as the Director of the Senior Action Center, Church Street, Lyndonville, VT. She served as parish priest for St. Peter’s until 1995, when she retired as a full time priest.

During her years of service at St. Peter’s, she was active in the Lyndon Area Ecumenical Council. She started the local food shelf, and with the cooperation of Fr. Jim Beauregard, St. Elizabeth’s; The Rev. Donald Vincent, U.M.C.; The Rev. Jim Daniels, UMC. They organized a low-income housing project called LAEC (Lake) Homes, Inc. This program was later turned over to Gilman Housing Trust.

As a Deacon, she initiated the local Thanksgiving and Christmas Basket Programs, and in its second year, it came under the umbrella of the Lyndon Area Ecumenical Council’s ministry.

After her retirement in 1995, Rev. Jeannette, as her friends and children called her, continued to serve as a supply priest in Barre, Fairlee, Hardwick, Newport, and Randolph, Vermont, and on occasion, for All Saints in Littleton, and St. Matthew’s Chapel, Sugar Hill, NH.

Jeannette is survived by her son, Fred McKnight of Peacham, Vermont, her daughter, Bonnie Fairchild of Westminster West, Vermont, and her son, William McKnight of Janesville, Wisconsin, her daughter-in-law, Cindy McKnight of Peacham, Vermont, her son-in-law, David Reid, of Westminster West, Vermont, her grandchildren, Margaret Fairchild Orciari of Keene, New Hampshire, Dylan McKnight of Framingham, Massachusetts, and Dr. Tristan McKnight of San Diego, California, their wives, Sarah McKnight of Framingham, Massachusetts, and Mayuko McKnight of San Diego, California and her great grandchildren, Angelo and Leta Orciari , Liam and Eleanor McKnight, Lili, Isla and Chloe McKnight, together with many loving cousins, nieces and nephews.

A public service, “A Celebration of My Faith,” will be scheduled in the future, followed by a reception and burial at Woodmont Cemetery, East Burke, Vermont.

In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to the Lyndon Area Food Shelf, P.O. Box 609, Lyndonville, VT 05851, or the Vermont Foodbank.

The family is being assisted with arrangements by Guibord-Pearsons & Sayles Funeral Home in St. Johnsbury, VT (saylesfh.com).

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