Burton Knopp, former owner of The Country Gal women's clothing store on Main Street in Westport and a Westport resident from 1955 until 1979, died on March 31, 2010, at his home in Middlebury, Vt. He was 93.
Knopp is survived by a daughter, Sari Knopp Biklen of Syracuse, N.Y., her spouse, Douglas Biklen and their children, Noah and Molly; and a son, Alex Knopp of Norwalk, former mayor of Norwalk, his spouse, Bette Bono and their children, Jessie and Andrew.
His wife, Honey Knopp, predeceased him in 1995.
He lived a fruitful, productive, sharing and committed life in suburban Connecticut and rural Vermont.
Born in Waterbury in 1916, the youngest of four children, he graduated from Temple University after working his way through college. He married Fay Honey Irving in 1941. They were married just five days short of 55 years at the time of her death in 1995.
Knopp and Honey moved to Westport in 1955. From their home on Daybreak Lane, they were actively involved in helping Westport schools through The Coleytown Capers, supporting the civil rights movement and launching The World Affairs Center. He taught hundreds of Wesport residents to play the folk guitar from his home, where he held group classes. He and Honey were awarded the Brotherhood Award by the Town of Westport in 1964 for their contributions to Westport's civic life.
Knopp was best known in Westport as the founder and owner of The Country Gal, a popular women's ready-to-wear retail store on Main Street. Opened in 1957, the store flourished during an era in which most of Westport's Main Street storefronts were still owned by local merchants. Generations of young women in Westport either worked or shopped at the store, making The Country Gal one of Westport's most popular and successful retail businesses.
He made Westport his home for 25 years. In 1979, he sold his business and moved to Shoreham, Vt. He lived for more than 25 years in a log house he built with his family, and then in 2008 moved to The Lodge in Middlebury, an assisted living residence for the elderly.
An expert gardener and amateur bee keeper, Knopp became a fixture at farmers markets in Vermont for 25 years with his prize-winning Country Gal Honey. He made friends with Vermont tourists who patronized his farm stand and had an active mail order honey business. He regularly visited elementary school classrooms, taking a display case showing a cross section of a bee hive with live bees to demonstrate to children how bees made and stored their honey.
Knopp logged more than 1,500 hours as a volunteer X-ray developer at Porter Hospital in Middlebury, Vt., was a working member of the Vermont Natural Food Coop, and was active in the Shoreham Historical Society. He attend weekly Meeting for Worship of the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers. He was also a Mason.
His positive nature was nurtured early on when he took a course from Dale Carnegie. The motto he learned there -- "Be hearty in your praise and lavish in your approbation" -- seemed to animate his life. He had an unusually positive attitude, and when asked how he was, would answer in the last years of his life, "never better," even when he had health problems that seemed to belie that statement.
Knopp had an enormous amount of energy and dedication to his family. When his son ran for state representative for a Westport and Norwalk district in 1986, he could be seen on election day at the Bedford Middle School polling place wearing a sign around his neck, "Vote for my son Alex."
A memorial service will be held later this spring in Middlebury, Vt.