Obituary: Nancy H. Knill, Aug. 18, 1930, to Oct. 28, 2017 |

Obituary: Nancy H. Knill, Aug. 18, 1930, to Oct. 28, 2017

Nancy H. Knill
Special to the Daily |

Longtime Vail resident Nancy (Harris) Knill, age 87, passed away peacefully in Fruita on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, surrounded by family.

A native of New Castle, Nancy is survived by her four daughters Kathleen K. Meyer (Lexington, Kentucky); Karen I. Brosius (and husband Kirk Brosius, Fruita); Patricia L. Meredith (and husband Bob Meredith, Rio Dulce, Guatemala); Leslie K. Mangan (Lexington, Kentucky); and her granddaughter Ty Marie Fanelli (and husband Stephen Fanelli, Seattle). The fourth of five children born to New Castle ranchers George and Gladys Harris, Nancy is preceded in death by her older siblings Patsy Potter, Ted Harris and Bob Harris and her younger brother Ron Harris.

Nancy graduated in 1952 from Colorado A&M (now Colorado State) University, earned her education certificate and enjoyed a 28-year career teaching English and literature to middle-school children in Glendora, California, where she resided and raised her four daughters with her husband, the late Dr. Larry M. Knill, a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

In 1981, Nancy retired from teaching and relocated back to her home state of Colorado to start a new chapter in her life. That journey landed her in the Vail Valley and the place she would always refer to thereafter as home. She began a new career as the executive assistant to the general manager at one of the resort’s busiest hotel properties in the heart of Vail Village, a position in which she served for over five years.

When that hotel was purchased in 1986 by the Faessler family and renamed the Sonnenalp Resort, Nancy liked to joke that “as a fixture, she came with the property deal,” and she maintained her position as executive assistant to the general manager for several more years before eventually stepping up to the executive level herself by taking the reins of the human resources department for the fast-growing resort hotel and served as its director until she retired (the first time) in 1996.

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Since retirement didn’t rest well with Nancy the first time around, she was enticed back to the Sonnenalp shortly thereafter, this time serving as director of the Sonnenalp Foundation for seven years. Her years at the Sonnenalp were among her most treasured in life, and she regarded its owners and fellow staff members as her second family.

Nancy loved music and gardening, and she was a voracious reader. She volunteered regularly for the annual Bravo! Vail Music Festival and was active in several other Vail community events, including her favorite book club within which she participated with her closest circle of friends. In late 2005, she retired again (this time for good) and ended up relocating to the warmer, more temperate climate of Fruita, where she remained until her passing.

Nancy will be greatly missed by family and friends but fondly remembered for her elegance and quiet strength, her eloquence both verbal and written, her unyielding patience and fortitude and for her unwavering kindness and generous spirit.

A celebration of life will be planned for Nancy in Vail at a future date. In lieu of flowers, donations are welcome to Nancy’s preferred charity HopeWest of Colorado (970-241-2212; 866-310-8900; http://www.hopewest, and she wanted to specifically thank its staff members and volunteers who cared for her so well in her final days.

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