The mood was somber at the Knox Foundation near Thomson after employees learned of the death of their employer and friend, Boone Aiken Knox, on Jan. 13.
The 74-year-old Mr. Knox died at his home in Augusta after a long, courageous battle with brain cancer. He was surrounded by family and close friends.
Mr. Knox, a civic leader and philanthropist who was widely known for his generosity to his community, was a friend to many, particularly in the Augusta-Thomson area.
One of them was Jim Alfriend. The two had been friends for more than 30 years.
"My most sincere and heartfelt thoughts and prayers for his family," Mr. Alfriend said. "He truly loved his family and was so proud of them. Boone directly and indirectly helped so many people that he came into contact with. I was fortunate to have been one of them. I can guarantee you this: When people remember Boone, they'll have smiles on their faces and in their hearts."
On Dec. 21, his 74th birthday, Mr. Knox celebrated by having someone drive him from his home to the Knox Foundation. It was the last time Mr. Knox would visit there, as his illness worsened, leaving him bedridden.
It didn't keep him from wanting to spend time with his friends.
Another longtime friend was Thomson lawyer Bill Wheeler.
"He was a fine friend," Mr. Wheeler said. "He would do anything in the world for you and never ask anything in return."
From a business perspective, Mr. Wheeler said, Mr. Knox "was one of the smartest men I've ever known."
"He was an excellent golfer and a lot of fun to play with." Mr. Wheeler added.
Mr. Knox had played in the British Open as an amateur.
Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry worked for Mr. Knox as a bank loan officer for many years, when Regions Bank was known as Bank of Thomson and later Allied Bank in Thomson.
"I've lost a friend and a gentleman that I really admired," Mr. Usry said. "Our community and those in the CSRA have lost a tremendous asset. He encouraged me and so many others to set high goals, to be ambitious in the things we undertook and to come out successful in the end."
McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said Mr. Knox was "a pillar of this community. He had a rare combination of the ability and contacts to bring economic development to McDuffie County, an excellent vision for things to come, a philanthropic heart and a true love for his community."
In one of his most recent projects, Mr. Knox served as chairman of the committee that secured local funding needed to bring The Salvation Army's Kroc Center to Augusta.
"The Kroc Center campaign absolutely could not have succeeded without Boone's leadership," said Salvation Army Capt. Todd Mason. "He led a campaign that was nearly three times bigger than any in Augusta's history while in the midst of the worst economic downturn in generations. It's been said several times that only Boone could have raised the funds to make The Salvation Army Kroc Center a reality in Augusta. We offer our prayers for Boone and his wonderful family and wish to thank him for all he has done for so many."
The center's brick tower will be named in Knox's honor when the complex opens later this year.
Braye Boardman, who along with his brother, Clay, has been involved with many historic-preservation and redevelopment projects, said Mr. Knox was among the area's most generous and influential businessmen.
"It's a monumental loss for his family and our community," Mr. Boardman said. "He will be missed by family, friends and all who knew him."
Mr. Knox is survived by his wife, George-Ann, and their three children and spouses, Elizabeth Knox Hopkins and William Cunningham Hopkins; Jefferson Boone Aiken Knox and Catherine Davis Knox; Charles Edward Knox and Kimberly Nations Knox. He also had 12 grandchildren.
A private burial service was held at Westview Cemetery in Thomson on Monday morning. A memorial service followed that afternoon at Sacred Heart Cultural Center in Augusta. The former Catholic church was closed in 1971 and was to be razed. The Knox family was instrumental in preserving the historic landmark and making it a cultural center.