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Connie L. Knox, Sun copy editor and Guild leader, dies

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Connie L. Knox, a veteran Baltimore Sun copy editor and Sun Magazine writer who had been active in the Newspaper Guild for decades, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack at her Sparks home.

She was 68.

Connie L. Mugrage was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, where she graduated from high school in 1961. She earned a degree in journalism in 1965 from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

She worked briefly for the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, before taking a newspaper job in New London, Conn. She later joined the Republican-American in Waterbury, Conn., as a reporter in the late 1960s.

While working for the newspaper, she met her future husband, Floyd E. Knox, who was the paper's city editor. They married in 1970.

After her husband was fired for printing a list of Vietnam War dead from Waterbury on Moratorium Day, they moved to York, Pa., where he took a job as assistant city editor of The Gazette and Daily and later edited the York Daily Record.

Her husband joined The Sunday Sun in 1973 as a copy editor, while she taught journalism at a community college near York and worked as a part-time administrative assistant at the Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Knox died in 1977, and the following year she began working on The Sunday Sun as a slot editor.

In addition to her editing job, she proved to be a versatile and graceful writer, writing during the 1980s on subjects that included gardening, pets, food, interior decorating tips, and how to prepare for and survive the Christmas holidays.

She instructed readers on how to roast a fresh 18-pound pig in the backyard and how to prepare Spanish flan caramel custard for dessert.

Mrs. Knox was later promoted to assistant editor of the old Sunday Sun Magazine.

"She brought insight into stories that went way beyond copy editing," said Susan Baer, a former Sun colleague who edited the magazine and lives in Chevy Chase.

"We were a team, a family, putting our heads together each week, thinking about the stories, the art, the covers. Connie was involved in the all major decisions related to the magazine. She made it fun to come to work. She never worried about who got the credit or who got the glory. On some Friday nights, there would be just two of us working on the magazine, often there until midnight, meeting the weekly deadline."

She wrote three columns for the magazine: "Sunny Side Up," "Sunday Gourmet" and "By Design."

In a 1982 cooking article, she wrote about a bungled attempt to make a steak dinner, the favorite meal of her husband.

"How could I hurt a steak? OK, you'd probably find out anyway: I admit I once nearly ruined a steak," she wrote.

"I got a grease fire going in the broiler, and clever person that I was, I threw a package of baking soda over it — and the steak. But I solved the problem by washing the steak off and putting it back in the broiler for a minute," she wrote.

In a whimsical Evening Sun essay, Mrs. Knox wrote about her daily commuting experiences along the way to and from her home in Shrewsbury, Pa., and later Hampstead, and what she saw from the windows of her car.

She wrote of the coming of fall when she'd see flocks of geese honking their way southward or the land caught in the icy grip of winter.

Mary J. Corey, director of content and senior vice president for Baltimore Sun Media Group, called Mrs. Knox a mentor "to me and to many other journalists who have called The Sun home."

"She was one of the wittiest writers around, one of the most demanding but nurturing editors, and one of the warmest colleagues," she said. "She took seriously the power and privilege of editing, but she never forgot to find the joy in it — and she helped instill that in a new generation of journalists."

When the Sunday Sun Magazine stopped publishing weekly in 1996, Mrs. Knox worked as a copy editor in the newspaper's features department and news desk.

She retired at the end of April.

"I knew Connie first as a member of the Guild and later as her supervisor," said John McIntyre, who headed The Baltimore Sun's copy desk for years and is now night content production manager.

"Though we were occasionally on the opposite sides of the table, I never doubted her commitment to the paper and what she saw as its best interests. She stood up for her people with integrity and determination, and there is no one else quite like her," he said.

Mrs. Knox had been an active Newspaper Guild member and union official for more than three decades.

Joan Jacobson, a former Evening Sun and Sun reporter, was tapped by Mrs. Knox in the 1980s to become a Guild leader.

"Connie was the backbone of the Guild at The Sun for three decades, a leader who not only inspired calm and confidence during the union's most difficult conflicts with management, but a copy editor who used her skills to scrutinize every fine detail of a union contract to make sure members' rights were upheld in every facet of the workplace," Ms. Jacobson said Monday.

She had served as unit chair at The Baltimore Sun for five years and was vice president of the Washington-Baltimore Guild for five years. She was then the local's president for 12 years, and was credited with bringing to an end its fractious history.

Mrs. Knox was an at-large vice president for TNG-CWA — The Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America — for eight years, followed by another eight-year term as TNG-CWA vice president for Region 2.

Three years ago, Mrs. Knox was elected TNG-CWA chairwoman, and held that position until this year when she decided not to seek re-election.

"Connie had an innate sense of justice and fairness, which always pushed her into the fight," said Bernie Lunzer, president of TNG-CWA.

Angie Kuhl, unit chair at The Baltimore Sun, said Mrs. Knox was "like a mother to me. She was a mentor and friend, and I will miss her deeply "

"The workplace and lives of thousands of newspaper employees across America and Canada are better because of her," Ms. Kuhl said.

Mrs. Knox enjoyed reading crime fiction and knitting.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Surviving are her daughter, Felicity J. Knox of Overlea; three stepsons, Mark Knox of Prospect, Conn., Michael Knox of Thomaston, Conn., and Eric Knox of Millis, Mass.; a stepdaughter, Desiree Baker of Taneytown; and 10 grandchildren. Another stepson, Floyd E. Knox Jr., died in 2009.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jacques Kelly contributed to this article.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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