In Memory

Chris Knifton VIEW PROFILE


Bill Wilson remembers his Physics lab partner


Chris was my physics class lab partner. We sat side by side in class, I think in the last row, and we got paired up for laboratory projects. I remember doing a variety of experiments in the lab class and participating in hands-on experiments of the various laws of physics. Chris was always very friendly, though quiet and soft spoken. He was absolutely brilliant, I do remember that. Maybe that's why I got through physics class. He and I worked together through the various lab exercises during my senior year. He aced every test and every lab, and I always was in awe at how easy it seemed to be for him. He helped me with parts of the classwork and I believe to this day that it was partly because of Chris that I enjoyed that class so much. When hearing of his death by suicide, I was struck by the finality of it all - and by the loss of such a bright person with tremendous potential. It kind of took my breath away - even today when I think of what Chris was driven to do, it is just something that I can't understand. That feeling of bewilderment and loss and my questions about why? stayed with me for a long time.

I also knew Chris' father. During summers I worked at the Blue Lake Packers cannery, and I spent many nights working the graveyard shift earning $2.39 an hour. Wow was that a lot of money to me. Chris' dad also worked in the cannery, as a foreman I believe, because he seemed to be in charge of the canning lines and he knew all the equipment and how to make repairs and keep things moving. I don't recall Chris working there, however.


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07/27/15 03:56 PM #1    

Rose Westwood (Merrick)

I remember seeing Chris at the end of the lunch line in the cafeteria.  I thought that he looked sad and lonely with no one standing with him.  I would get in line with to talk to him, as I too suffered from a sad, loneliness.  My sister knew his sister, Joy, and that is how I learned of his death.  His sister loved him and was deeply affected by his suicide. I have always remembered this when I was very depressed.  My thoughts were "I can't hurt the people who love me, even though my inner pain is so great, I just wanted it to stop.* 

Here is my mental health story, not to detract from Chris's story, but to point out that we were in the dark ages when it came to mental illness recognition and treatment back in the 1960s. I have gone to counseling for depression many times since I was in college.  There always was a situation that seemed to trigger the depression, but it was my off-kilter brain that made my problems seem impossible to solve.  I did not start taking medication for depression until I was about 55, but that didn't seem to make me feel better. After many years of suffering, I finally petitioned County Mental Health  to see an actual psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with general anxiety and bipolar depression 2.  Then the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place.  

Bipolar II manifests unusual behavior, including mood swings that vary between episodes of major depression and hypomania which can be elevated, expansive or irritable mood. (In my case I become hyper-sensitive and irritable, even acting out in an angry rage.) I have been this way since I was a teenager, but my mother was most probably Bipolar, so I didn't realize how abnormal my behavior was.  Medication for depression doesn't work well for people with Bipolar II (and often makes it worse) because the neurotransmitter dysfunction is different. Anti-seizure medication is one effective way of treating Bipolar II chemically. I have now been treated sucessfully for nearly six years.  If anyone is interested in exploring this topic further, this is a good website:  

Rose (Westwood) Merrick

07/30/15 12:06 PM #2    

Christopher Olsen

I would like to say that I knew Chris but I did not. I moved to Corvallis my senior and I was getting along with my parents for making me move. The reason for my post is that my oldest daughter, although she was popular and played soccer and gymnastics, she was very lonely and depressed. She started cutting herself at 12and attempted suicide for the first time the night of her Senior Prom. She has made 2 other attempts but is still with us. She did have a stroke in August 2014. If it was not for my wife hounding the county, state, and federal government I am sure she would be dead. We have been raising our granddaughter since birth due to her mental illness. Rose I am happy you found help and I wish Chris cold have found it. May you all have a great time at the reunion. 

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