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Posted on Sun. Aug. 24, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

A full life enthralled by music

Area man, 95, has held same Philharmonic seat since 1948

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The Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s Masterworks season begins Sept. 27. These shows are scheduled through May. For tickets or season subscription, call 481-0777 or go to www.fwphil.org. Mahler’s First Symphony

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27

Where: Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Featuring: Tippett’s concerto for Double String Orchestra A Tale of Two Concertmasters

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18

Where: Auer Performance Hall, IPFW, 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E.

Featuring: Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from “Peter Grimes,” Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1 Brahms’ Second Symphony

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1

Where: Auer Performance Hall, IPFW, 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E.

Featuring: Avison’s Concerto Grosso No. 5, Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos, Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks” Shostakovich’s First Symphony

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22

Where: Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Featuring: Elgar’s Violin Concerto All Mozart

When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10

Where: Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Featuring: Mozart’s Symphony No. 31, “Paris,” Clarinet Concerto and Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter” Tchaikovsky: Revealed

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7

Where: Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Featuring: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, “Pathetique” Beethoven’s Third Symphony

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28

Where: Auer Performance Hall, IPFW, 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E.

Featuring: Weber’s “Der Freischutz” and Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 1 Verdi’s Requiem

When: 7:30 p.m. March 21

Where: Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd. Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto

When: 7:30 p.m. April 18

Where: Auer Performance Hall, 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E.

Featuring: Berlioz’s overture to “Beatrice and Benedict” Dvorak’s Symphony No. 5 Stravinsky’s Firebird

When: 7:30 p.m. May 9

Where: Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Featuring: Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major and Turina’s “Danzas Fantasticas”

If you happen to have a seat in Section C, Row T for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s season opener at Embassy Theatre in September, say hello to 95-year-old George Knight in seat T1 as you squeeze by.

As a season-ticket holder, Knight has bought the same main floor seat, 19 rows away from the main stage, since 1948.

Although he sits alone now, his stories of travel, music and love with his beloved wife and former T2 seat holder, Virginia, are bound to make you smile as bright as he does – just be sure to sit up nice and close, so he can hear you.

He has lost sight in one eye and mobility in his legs and refuses to wear his hearing aid.

“You’re looking at a shell,” he says, laughing. “The pieces that are left of a 95-year-old.”

Knight has traveled the world to attend the finest operas, from “Aida” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City to wrangling a ticket to a sold-out opera house in Vienna, Austria. At 80, Knight drove more than 3,000 miles from his 80-acre farm in Columbia City to Alaska; at 81, he visited 14 countries as he criss-crossed Europe for the fifth time.

And he always made it back in time for the Philharmonic.

The orchestra’s 71st season opens Sept. 27 with Gustav Mahler’s “Titan” symphony and composer Michael Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra. Two of Knight’s favorite composers, Jean Sibelius and Ludwig van Beethoven, will be featured in this season’s programs, but he says he’s no musical prude.

He has traveled to Nashville for the Grand Ole Opry, too.

“I was brought up around music from the time I was 5 years old, and it was just a growing hobby that kept with me. My wife had professional training and even was offered a radio program at one time,” he says. “We used to sing together for the Fort Wayne Lutheran Chorus for several years and we did several performances of the ‘Messiah’ with the Philharmonic at Christmas time.”

“I’ve been blessed to enjoy music and have a wife that I can share that with,” he adds.

Born in Lewis, a small community outside Terre Haute, Knight says he remember his father, who sang in a quartet, singing him French Christmas carols to lull him to sleep. A part of a musical family, he learned to play the piano and organ, and through music, he met Virginia, “a beautiful, lyrical soprano” from Kokomo, he says.

Although his first love was music, he took a job in Fort Wayne with General Electric in 1943, marrying his wife in 1944. They settled in Churubusco until 1957, when they moved to their farm in Columbia City. They have two children: son David and daughter Jessica.

“I worked for the General Electric company for 38 1/2 years, and when I retired in 1981, I asked Virginia, ‘Now that I’ve retired, would you mind if I retire my razor, too?’ ”

Knight bursts into laughter.

“She said she didn’t, so I started growing a mustache, and then I finally grew a beard. I’ve been looking like Santa Claus for a few years now, but I would have never done it, if she didn’t want me to,” he says.

Although he speaks of her as if it was yesterday, Virginia Knight died in 1989. Blind in one eye and reliant on a walker, Knight and his children sold his farm in 2012 after 55 years, and he moved to The Oaks assisted living community in Columbia City.

With limited mobility, his travels now mostly consists of church, errands and the Philharmonic concerts he enjoys at the Embassy and Foellinger Theatre.

With his children living outside the area, Mike Donithan and his wife, Darlene, have become his companions.

“I’m just compassionate for older people, and it just so happened that George came up from the back of the church to sit with us in the front,” Darlene Donithan says. “I always had taken care of my parents, helped them and before this, I had said to the Lord that I really need someone because I miss having my mom to take care of. I think God brought him to us.”

The couple are now responsible for taking him to church, the bank, to get groceries and make sure he makes it to his T1 seat on time for the concerts.

Mike Donithan says that their time commitment is simple.

“It just needed to be done,” he says.

As for a man who seen a lot of the world, Knight appears to appreciate the smaller journeys now.

“I have good friends. When you’re almost blind and you’re stumbling around, you need all the help you can get,” he says. “They have enhanced my life.”

kcarr@jg.net


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