Friday, November 30 marked the end of what will forever be remembered as the longest and most courageous battle between one man, a man we all know as the worldâ€™s greatest daredevil, and death. Robert Craig â€œEvelâ€ Knievel died in Clearwater, Florida, finally succumbing after nearly a three-year bout with the terminal lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was 69.
His death was preceded by more than 40 years of constant battle against the persistent pain of broken bones and severe trauma after jumping and crashing motorcycles like no man had ever done before. In addition, he fought to overcome the tremendous obstacles of diabetes, hepatitis C, a liver transplant, numerous surgeries and two strokes.
Knievelâ€™s legacy as Americaâ€™s Legendary Daredevil, Last of the Gladiators, and King of the Stuntmen will undeniably live on among millions of fans, past, present and future.
However, the memories of the man apart from his legend will live on even stronger in the hearts of his friends and family. Despite his well-known swagger of self confidence, the legacy he wished for most of all was simply to be an inspiration.
â€œThe fame of great men ought to be judged always by the means they used to acquire it.â€ By this maxim, nothing will ever be able to take away or challenge the things accomplished by Evel Knievel.
Whether it was unmatched courage or just an absolute unwillingness to give in to fear, Robert Craig Knievel was a manâ€™s man through all the days of his life. He took great pride in the simply stated, yet most difficult to accomplish principles: always living up to his word, never shirking the responsibility or consequences for his actions regardless of the personal risk, and never, not ever, failing to stop trying.
Knievel was born in Butte, Montana on October 17, 1938 to Robert Edward and Ann (Keough) Knievel. He and his younger brother Nic were raised by the loving family of paternal grandparents Ignatius and Emma Knievel.
Growing up and living in Butte were some of the most valued times of his life. His fame took him far and wide across the country and even over seas, but Knievel never let go of the love and pride he had for his hometown.
Growing up in a blue-collar mining town, Knievel attended Butte public schools before serving in the U.S. Army reserves. As a young man he was always an exceptional athlete, hard worker and determined individual. Knievel explored and excelled in many different professions, if only for a short time, before finding his calling as the ultimate daredevil.
During his prime as a bona fide celebrity, Knievel enjoyed his spoils to the highest. He loved fast cars, private airplanes, fancy yachts and the finest clothes and jewelry money could buy. He was sought out by Hollywood and remained friends with many famous people until his death.
In the end, he had a few regrets, but he always sincerely strived to do the right thing. He never forgot who his real friends were. He never forgot his love for his family. And he never forgot the place from where he came, what heâ€™d learned or what others had done to help him get to where he did. The red, white and blue for which he is famous were a tribute to his Butte character as much as they were for America. In his last years, one of the greatest honors was being able to share his hometown with his world of fans and to participate and take pride in the celebration of his annual event, â€œEvel Knievel Days.â€
He dearly loved his grandchildren and he always made it a point to stay in touch with the people he loved the most, his friends and family. And lastly, most important to him above all was his new-found faith in Jesus Christ. Just as he always took great care in surrounding himself with the best people he could depend upon to help him make his jumps during his motorcycle career, Knievel found his greatest friend of all in preparation for his final leap from life. He was profoundly happy that he gave his life to God, who comforted him and gave him the strength he needed to make it through the end.
Knievel is survived by his loyal friend and wife, Krystal Kennedy-Knievel, whom he married in 1999. She stood by his side through his greatest struggles with health until his death. His in-laws include Krystalâ€™s mother Sylvia and her husband Wayne Croft; father Glen Kennedy, and Krystalï¿½s sister Shawn and husband Rory with their two children.
He is also survived by his former wife of 38 years, Linda Bork Knievel. Though they divorced, Linda and Evel had four children that all made them proud. Son, Kelly Knievel and daughter-in-law Shelli with granddaughter Lily; son, Robbie Knievel and granddaughters Krysten and Karmen, with great-granddaughter Analiese; daughter Tracey and son-in-law Mitch McLeod with grandchildren Josiah, Jesse, Melody, Cody, Cole, Casey and Dusty with wife Rachel and great-granddaughter Lucy; and his youngest daughter Alicia, with son-in-law Matt Vincent and grandchildren Madelyn, Jaicee, Rye and his sixteenth grandchild expected this June.
Other surviving family members include his stepmother, Mrs. Robert Edward Knievel; brother, Nic and his wife Rusty; sister, Kristy and brother-in-law Hugh Lawrence; sister, Renee and brother-in-law Bill Slaughter; sister Robin and brother-in-law John Dick; and sisters Loretta Young and Kadie Boney. His is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews, extended family, friends and his millions and millions of fans.
Public services will be held for family, friends and fans at the Butte Civic Center at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, December 10th. A private Christian burial and graveside services will take place at the Mountain View Cemetery.