The greater Stettler community is in shock after the sudden death of Halkirk-area farmer Steve McKnight in a farm accident last Friday.
Shortly after 1 p.m., police were called to McKnight’s farm, which is located about seven kilometres north of Halkirk.
Sgt. Colm Fitzgerald of the Coronation RCMP said McKnight was pronounced dead at the scene after being pinned between a cattleliner and a loading chute.
McKnight, 59, was well-known in all of the communities from Stettler to Castor, but especially in his home community of Halkirk, where he was a lifelong resident.
Friends described him as a devoted family man who had a passion for sports — as an athlete and as a coach — and a love for farming.
He is survived by his wife Patti, daughter Kerbi McKnight of Lethbridge and son Matt (Jessica) McKnight, who plays pro hockey in Germany.
Steve McKnight taught for 17 years at Gadsby School before returning to farming on a full-time basis.
Daram van Oers, the principal at Gus Wetter School in Castor, taught with McKnight at Gadsby.
“Steve was a really good teacher, but what I remember best was his coaching,” van Oers said. “He was an excellent coach. I learned a lot from him.
“He was excellent with the kids. He knew how to get the best out of them. I still use his coaching ideas to this day.”
Bernie Doan grew up with McKnight and was a lifelong friend and neighbour.
“I enjoyed our friendship,” Doan said. “It was an easy friendship — you didn’t have to work at it.
“Steve stood for a lot of good values and principles. He was a solid rock, very consistent and responsible — with a gentleness about him. He had a unique character — he was firm, yet gentle.”
Doan described McKnight’s farming methods as innovative.
“He took a holistic approach to grazing rotation,” he said. “He understood how to pasture, and was careful not to overgraze. That really paid off, production-wise.
“Steve was a thinker and he applied himself.”
McKnight and his wife took progressive steps to harness the wind and turn it into electricity for their farm, to cut the cost of electric bills.
They installed a five-kilowatt wind turbine to supply electricity for their farm and were able to sell surplus power into the provincial power grid.
That was a few years before the Halkirk wind project was initiated.
“Steve always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye,” recalled Darcy Mabbott, a neighbour and a friend.
McKnight continued to coach after he left teaching, Mabbott said.
“He was really fair and was good at explaining techniques to the kids. Steve was really involved in sports and he was very health-conscious — he walked and jogged a lot.”
While he was a student at the University of Alberta, McKnight played CIS hockey with the Golden Bears. In later years, he helped coach at summer hockey schools in Stettler.
His love of sports was passed on to his children.
“Our kids attribute their appreciation of sports and staying in sports to Steve,” said Wayne Mohn, who taught with McKnight for 10 years at Gadsby.
“You couldn’t ask for a nicer guy.”
Neil Pinder worked with McKnight in Gadsby for five years.
“Steve had a positive influence on the school,” Pinder said. “He was concerned about the success of students, both academically and as a whole person. He was always looking for ways to improve things and was willing to put the time into doing it.”
McKnight’s funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Stettler Funeral Home.