A businessman, philanthropist, and church leader, Abe Knepp started K&K industries in 1972 as a floor and roof truss manufacturer, eventually growing it into one of the largest businesses in the Amish and Mennonite community in Daviess County. He was the founder and pastor of Fresh Start Ministries, a Christian counseling and rehabilitation program for recent prison inmates.
Abe’s passion for rehabilitation and recovery began in the late 1970s when he volunteered at the Daviess County Jail, where he eventually became the official chaplain. In 1985 he opened Fresh Start Training Center to continue his mentorship program for men who had spent time in prison. Abe received the J.P. Hagel Service Award in 1991 and also won a Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 2004. Abe was killed in 2007 when his small plane crashed. A conference room at the Daviess County Jail is named in his honor.
On the evening of Abe’s accident, his family gathered and met with their family minister. He read a verse to them — Romans 15 verse 13. Later in the evening, the family went to Abe’s study and found his Bible on the desk, opened to that same verse and it was underlined. This Bible verse has played an important and recurring role in the Knepp family.
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Romans 15:13
From the Abraham Knepp exhibit at the Daviess County Museum.
“Abe Had Many Hats”
Abe had many hats he wore on any given day
We’ll never know the full extent, in this life anyway…
He was the founder and the boss at the plant called “K and K’
From three employees, it has grown to what you see today.
But not without the setback of the 1980 fire –
A brand new plant emerged from all the ashes and the mire.
Tornado winds leveled it again back in ’95,
But he didn’t complain about his loss ’cause they all got out alive!’
He didn’t give up–and folks are thankful for their jobs today
And all his generosity he shared along the way.
Twenty-eight years he served as chaplain at the county jail –
The inmates knew and trusted him to be there without fail.
A father figure to them all, he tried to meet their need –
A listening ear, some sound advice, or a Bible course to read.
Fresh Start was born to meet the need of the inmate’s further care
To break the shackles of their sins through counseling and prayer.
So countless men are grateful to him for their brand new start –
A job, a meal, but most of all–Jesus in their heart!
A chaplain at the hospital was another hat he wore…
Praying for the sick and spreading cheer on every floor.
When crisis hit, he was the man that helped to break the news
He touched the grieving hearts as though he had walked in their shoes.
His servant heart was always looking for someone to bless –
A call to say “keep up your chin” would help in times of stress.
Financial needs were often met through his generosity
A meal tab or a full-size bus–often shared anonymously.
His father hat he proudly wore and dearly loved all four
Vacation trips were special times with memories galore…
The winter Florida days included deep-sea fishing fun,
But Colorado was his favorite–second place to none!
He took time out for hair cuts and for fishing with his boys
When farming season came, they all enjoyed the ‘big boy toys.’
He was there to pray for them–even late at night
A cup of tea or a remedy would make everything all right.
He loved his wife and often served her coffee in her chair
Their 40th was in Alaska–enjoying the beauty there.
He enjoyed his peanuts and cashews and folks who could sing bass
Seafood was a favorite treat and John Deere had its place.
But his special love was flying so he died a happy man –
Leaving us with questions about God’s almighty plan.
And then He put a rainbow in the sky down to the site –
A rainbow full of lasting hope to Abe’s last, final flight.
So make your preparations to join him round the throne,
He’ll be waiting by the pearly gates to welcome us all home!
Abe is survived by his wife Viola, four children: Gary, Sharon, Nelson, Darla and spouses, and eighteen grandchildren.