Leslie L. Knowlton

June 7, 1934August 6, 2018

Leslie L. Knowlton, age 84, born on June 7, 1934. Passed away August 6, 2018, on the eve of his 58th anniversary with wife Karen Knowlton (nee Hunsley). Son of the late Leslie V. and Lillian B. Knowlton, and brother of the late James Knowlton. Survived by his wife Karen; daughters Laura (Kurt Nisi), Julia, and Sarah; and grandchildren Anna, Matthew and William Nisi, and Claire and Madeleine De Pree. Also survived by his sister, Jeanne Anne Knowlton, five nieces and nephews and their children, and many cousins and friends. He earned both his Bachelor’s and Law (JD) degrees from the University of Michigan, and moved to Cleveland in 1964 to join the law firm of Schlesinger, Galvin, Kohn, & Landefeld which later merged with Arter & Hadden. Specializing in estate planning and tax law, he also taught evening classes at the CWRU School of Law and served a term as president of the Ohio Chapter of American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. Les found joy in music throughout his life; learning piano at a young age, playing trombone in his college marching band and occasionally amusing his family with the accordion. He enjoyed playing, arranging, studying, and listening to jazz. He loved to sing, for many years at Plymouth Church of Shaker Heights and later at the Church of the Covenant. In 2002, he joined the The Singers’ Club of Cleveland which gave him both an outlet for his music and a brotherhood of fellow singers, whom he served as president from 2007 through 2010. Les and Karen raised their family in Shaker Heights and retired in Bratenahl to enjoy the beauty of Lake Erie. Though he and Karen traveled the world, Les loved best the woods and lakes of his native Michigan, and the family spent 45 summers at their cottage at Big Bear Lake in Otsego County enjoying the quiet and serenity of the clear water, whispering forests, and beautiful sky. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Singers’ Club of Cleveland 125th Fund, P.O. Box 16611, Cleveland, OH 44116, or Church of the Covenant (address below). A memorial service will be held on Saturday August 25th at 11:00 am at The Church of the Covenant 11205 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106.


  • Memorial Service Saturday, August 25, 2018

Leslie L. Knowlton

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Gordon Merritt

August 12, 2018

I first knew Les in 1953 at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house in Ann Arbor and we have been good friends ever since. Les was in my marriage to Charlene in 1956 and we stayed in touch with each other for the next 62 years. He was always kind and considerate and was the person I went to for advice on many very diverse issues. We shared pleasures like our love of northern Michigan and having a cottage on a lake , as well as sadness, like the loss of a younger brother. In the end you can say that Les filled all the criteria for a Best Friend and he will be sorely missed.

Julia Knowlton

August 11, 2018

Eloquence fails me in the immediate aftermath of the loss of my father. Nonetheless, I can share some of what I owe and some happy times I remember.

My father worked ceaselessly for the sake of his family. His loyalty to my mother, to my sisters and to me is unparalleled in my life. I have never met a more loyal man. I had the utmost respect for him.

I owe my excellent education to both of my parents, who moved to the Shaker Heights school system in large part because of its excellent reputation. I owe my entire career as a college professor to this foundation.

In his later life, I went through a period of serious illness, and he again sacrificed to get me the medical attention that I needed. It is not an understatement to say that that was lifesaving. There are simply no words to portray the meaning of his care and commitment.

Moving back to my childhood, I want to share some happy childhood memories: his jazz piano-playing wafting upstairs to my bedroom in the evenings; his playing merry Christmas carols on the piano (Up on the Housetop, White Christmas, Rudolph, and more); his relaxed demeanor on the Pontoon boat on Big Bear Lake, wearing his captain's hat with his family on board, as we circled the lake at red-and-pink sunset; his enjoyment during family visits from his brother Jim and family at Big Bear, and many more.

At the age of eighty, my dad biked around Mackinac Island with my mother and me. Then I took my parents out to a whitefish dinner after we took the ferry back to the mainland. I will always treasure that memory, among many others.

In his old age, my father and I exchanged many emails about poetry and jazz. He supported my writing fully, and he was aware, before this death, that my lifelong goal of publishing a book of poetry was coming true. I hold that in my heart.

My father also loved his granddaughters, Claire and Madeleine, very much. They brought him joy. May his spirit rest in peace.

Jeanne Anne Knowlton

August 10, 2018

My brother Les always cast a long shadow: six-feet-plus tall and more than twelve years my senior. The bar was set high by his accomplishments. He was a gifted pianist, playing classical compositions and improvising jazz. He effortlessly succeeded academically (Phi Beta Kappa). With his ready wit, he would dash off satirical doggerel and, in his later years, pen sensitive verse. And he could draw freehand cartoons to rival Disney. His devotion to his wife and daughters was total. He opened the world of music and theatre to me, which ultimately helped define my life and career. He leaves in me deep love and a towering appreciation.

Jeanne Anne Knowlton

Rosa Jones

August 9, 2018

I am remembering that Mr. Knowlton was a very kind gentle spirit and was always smiling when ever I saw him. I worked has the family Nanny for his Granddaughters (Claire & Maddie)., my thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and each family member.

Corrie Freed (Knowlton)

August 9, 2018

We spent many summer vacations up at the cottage with Uncle Les, Aunt Karen, Laura, Julie, and Sarah! So many fun times and fond memories. Learned to waterski there as a child. After dad passed away we returned for another vacation and reminisced. Definitely going to miss you Uncle Les!