Alita Jane (Peterson, Gano) Knuckles
Feb 23, 2011 | 3658 views | 0 0 comments | 108 108 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Polio survivor raised a family, helped build Baptist Chapel

Born in Lockerby, UT to Harry Jay and Edith Jane Long Peterson, Alita Jane (Peterson, Gano) Knuckles was the first child of a family that would eventually grow to eight children. 

Dry farming was the family business, and business was tough. 

As was typical for that time period, both sets of her grandparents were within a two mile walk of her.  At the age of three, Alita was stricken with Polio. 

This debilitating condition stripped her of the ability to walk, so she was forced to be carried anywhere she went, and she had to learn how to walk all over again.  The walks to visit grandparents were more than just a chance to visit, but were also therapy. 

The polio also affected her ability to start school with the rest of the children that were her age. She was forced to start two years behind the rest of her future classmates. 

Over the next two years Alita was able to complete four years of school, and was caught up with the kids that were her age. 

In 1941, she moved into long-time family friends Clyde and Eloise Deremo in Dove Creek.  She completed her senior year of high school and graduated with the DCHS class of 1942. 

Following graduation, she went to work at the REA co-op in Dove Creek where she met a young farmer by the name of Vernon Gano. 

The two were married the following February and they would eventually settle on land three miles north of Dove Creek, where she would remain for the next 40 plus years. 

For 22 years, Alita’s vocation would best be described as “farm wife”.  This title is used not for simplicity, but rather because there is not another word that encompasses everything this involves. 

It was also during this time that her own family would be formed, and her two daughters, Betty and Norma, would enter the picture. 

In an attempt to better provide for his family, and to supplement his farm income, Vernon had gone to work in the local mines. 

On an August afternoon, just a few days after the birth of their first grandson Roger, Vernon was tragically killed in what can only be described as a freak mining accident. 

The public support for Alita and her family was so overwhelming that the funeral was forced to be held in the gymnasium of the Dolores County High School. 

A couple years later, a chance conversation at the county assessor’s office would lead to a new vocation.  While in the office to go over her property taxes, she happened to mention that she was going to have to find a job.  She left the office with a job she would hold for the next 24 years until her retirement. 

A new vocation was not the only thing new for Alita.  A local widower, Jewel Knuckles, caught her eye, and after courtship the two were married in 1966. 

Jewel had four children of his own, most of them grown, but the marriage also brought a new son, Dennis, into the house.  Dennis was a freshman at Dolores County High School at the time, and was a classmate of Norma.   

Jewel also introduced Alita to another area that would prove to be very important to her over the years, a new church.  They were charter members in the Baptist Chapel in Cortez.  After meager beginnings, they were able to build a new church, and Alita was the first person baptized in the new building. 

The next 20 plus years saw Alita and Jewel making the trip to Cortez every Sunday and Wednesday for services.  Alita remained a devoted member of her church for the remainder of her life.  Alita and Jewel moved off of the family farm in 1988 to a home in Cortez.

She is preceded in death by her husband’s Vernon Gano and Jewel Knuckles of Dove Creek, her sisters Elsie and Mildred, and brothers Boyd and Douglas. 

She is survived by two sisters, Hazel Peterson and Iris (Peterson) Jackson, brother Howard; daughters Betty and Norma, stepson Dennis Knuckles; grandsons Roger and Vernon Knuckles, Steve, Brian, and Chris Neely, step granddaughters Karla, Karen, Lisa, and Rita, plus ten additional step grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren, plus numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral services for Cortez resident Alita Jane Knuckles were held Saturday, February 5 at Ertel Memorial Chapel, with interment following at Dove Creek Cemetery.

Services were under the direction of Ertel Funeral Home.

For further information or to send condolences, log on to and click on the obituary section.
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