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A Native Son

by Mike Moyle

Sausalito recently lost one of its true native sons with the passing of Konrad Knudsen, known by all as Konnie.  Konnie’s life spanned 87 years of Sausalito’s history and touched the lives of many.

Konnie was born on the Fourth of July in 1927 at his parents’ home in the Waldo community where Marin City stands today.  At that time Waldo was an arc of just over twenty houses on the hillside, curving around the bayside marsh that is today the Gateway Shopping Center.  Two dairies, including one owned by Joe Bettencourt, the grandfather of Konnie’s future wife, Arlene, were located among the homes, and cows far outnumbered people.

Konnie had a lifelong love of the outdoors that stemmed from his boyhood in Waldo’s wide open spaces.  Here is a brief excerpt from his oral history, referred to below, in which he describes what it was like to grow up there:

“We would play in the barns, you know, and stuff today that you'd do, you'd go to jail for. You know. I mean they, they'd, whoever owned the dairy now would run you, run you off. But, it was really fun. You know, in the mornings we'd do that, and then go home to breakfast, and then we'd go play baseball until noon, and then after lunch we would go down to Waldo Point. There was a beach down there, and we'd swim. When we finally got paper routes, we'd swim until the papers came, and then we'd go deliver our papers, and go home and have dinner, and then go out and play "kick the can," or whatever, you know, until about nine o'clock, and then go home and start over again.”

Konnie had several different jobs in his early life, including working on several local dairies, and, for a brief time during World War II, as a pipefitter at the Marinship project.  He served in Germany in the Army during the Korean War and, after returning home, got a job with the Sausalito Post Office and worked there as a mailman until his retirement.

Although it may not have been obvious from his name, Konnie was also part of Sausalito’s large population of residents of Portuguese descent.  While Konnie’s father emigrated from Norway, his mother, May, was a member of a branch of the Bettencourt clan that came here from the Azores in the 1800’s.  Just to confuse things, Konnie’s wife, Arlene, was from an unrelated branch of the same Bettencourt family.  

Although he was known for many things, Konnie may be best remembered by generations of Sausalito’s youth and their parents for his active involvement with the town’s youth baseball program.   Konnie had a lifelong love of the game and was among those who helped to bring the Little League to Sausalito in 1954.  For many years he coached his beloved Salvage Shop Seals as well as other teams, and his baseball-isms, such as “Get your glove and go,” were well known.  Some of the most touching memories of Konnie came from his former players who recalled his unfailing cheerful attitude, encouragement and support.  It did not matter how skilled a kid might be – what Konnie wanted most was simply for someone to try.

When the Little League started in Sausalito, participation was limited to boys living within the city limits, which at that time only extended as far north as Nevada Street.  Konnie was instrumental in allowing children from Marin City, as well as interested girls, to play.

Konnie’s contributions to Sausalito’s baseball program were acknowledged when the baseball field at what today is Willow Creek Academy was dedicated in his name in the mid-90s.

Finally, Konnie was a dedicated family man.  He and Arlene raised seven children, and at the time of his passing they had 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  His legacy lives on in many forms.

The Sausalito Historical Society has in its collection a CD and transcript of an oral history of Konnie done by the Anne T. Kent California Room at the Marin County Free Library, and Konnie is also featured in the IDESST Sausalito Portuguese Hall’s new Sausalito Portuguese Heritage Walking Tour (the tour Guidebook is available on the Hall’s website – www.idesst.org).  Both are well worth exploring.

Konnie Knudsen as young boy in Waldo, as a teenager on horseback and as an adult.

Photos courtesy of Anne T. Kent California Room at the Marin County Free Library, and the Knudsen Family

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