Written by Barbara Grow
It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. In the life of Lloree Ellen Knowles, that was truly the case. A woman who lived a life, as long as many, before moving to North Fork in the early 80s to be near her daughter, Robin Ryan and son-in-law Richy Ryan.
There, she built a home, where she was also able to spend time with her grandsons – Justin, Dewey and Guy – and her son Clyde, before his passing.
Lloree’s life might best be summed up in her daughter Robin’s message to friends, on the day of her passing on January 20, 2015.
“Well my tough little pistol packing mother just passed over to the other side. Lloree Ellen Knowles died at 7:10 this evening. One tough little fighter, never knew when to quit. No quit in her. 97 years of knowledge.”
While interviewing and researching for the tribute to a most unusual and talented woman, the author was shown many sides of a woman who was a page right of the history book that built America. Ninety-seven years of rugged individualism, hard work, determination, and a woman who did not back down from any challenge… ever.
The daughter of Kansas homesteaders, Lloree described her early years on the homestead, as a student in a one room school house, as carefree. Those carefree days ended too soon with the death of Lloree’s mother in 1924, when she was just six. Her father struggled to support and keep his children together, and ultimately moved them to Pasadena, where she and her siblings lived with various relatives and even spent time in a home for motherless children.
Finally, Lloree and her sister Ruth were taken in by relatives who owned a dairy, where they worked and grew into adulthood. At 18, Lloree married Andrew McGuire, with whom she had four children – Lyle, Clyde, James, and Robin.
Before and after WWII, Lloree’s talent for buying, fixing up, and selling real estate served her well, as she was now responsible for supporting her family. She moved to Kernville in 1955 where she opened Kernville’s first real estate office and a restaurant, which she named Robin’s Cafe. The young entrepreneur found herself with two businesses and no way to advertise, so she started what is now known as the Kern Valley Sun Newspaper.
During her Kernville years, Lloree promoted Kernville and the Kern River Valley as leader of the local business association and chamber of commerce. She blazed the trail for a frontier style celebration to promote tourism, which included starting the first Whiskey Flat Days, which is now a traditional event which includes a rodeo, old west encampment events, line dancing, old fashioned gunslinger events, and in 1985 served as parade grand marshal.
In 1983, after a lifetime of other interests, that included organizing and cooking for large trail rides, starting a newspaper and local events that are still the highlight of many Southern California activities, Lloree set out for a new adventure in North Fork, California, where she also made a name and a place for herself.
Many locals remember Lloree’s truck that seemed to drive itself, until a tuft of white curly hair could barely be seen over the steering wheel. Out jumped a sassy but cordial lady, donning a smile, who came to be known by all with her many civic minded pursuits.
At Lloree’s graveside service recently, friend Chris Stanley, recalled one night when Lloree was visiting and her house was empty because of remodeling. Chris lamented that she had no place to offer her guest to stay, but Lloree, age 80, said, “Just get me some blankets and I’ll be fine.” She cheerfully spent the night on the floor.
Mrs. Stanley also told the story of a time when The North Fork Women’s Club was set up for a show and sale. The ladies were worried that items might be stolen during the night. In a page right out of history, Lloree, who served as president of the Women’s Club, spent the night in her truck with her dog and a shot gun. All items were safe and accounted for and the show went on.
Lloree’s power over the pen was well known. This mighty little woman, who started in a one room school house, became an accomplished writer. As I pored over the old newspapers I had saved over the years, I noticed for the first time, 30-year-old articles that told the stories of lives, accomplishments, and histories of families long since gone. She had a way of recounting history and human interest. During her years in North Fork, she wrote for The American Neighbor, The North Fork Neighbor, The Chips Loggers Jamboree publication, The North Fork Journal and finally, she wrote featured articles for The Sierra Star.
Her accomplishments did not stop there. She served as president of the North Fork Boosters and worked tirelessly to improve her adopted home town. In 1996, Lloree was honored as North Fork’s Citizen of the Year.
Family needs took her to care for her brother in Idaho until his passing, and ultimately she landed back in Kernville, where she was remembered and honored and spent the remaining of her 97 years. Now Lloree Ellen Knowles rests near her son, Clyde McGuire, in the North Fork Cemetery, where a grateful town also honors and remembers Lloree Ellen Knowles, whose pen was just as mighty as her sword.
This poem, was read by Lloree’s daughter, Robin Ryan, at her January 28 graveside service, and speaks of her mom’s love of horses and mules.
Let me tell you folks
who have gathered here today,
I’m a happy and thankful cowgirl
who has just passed away.
I know it’s hard but please don’t cry for me.
For I am riding God’s beautiful trails
high in the sky, you see.
The horse I’m riding don’t spook or buck
for the Father stables perfect horses and mules,
and I get my pick of the bunch.
Lord please forgive me of my sins.
I have not been perfect you see,
but I know that she who
believes in you Lord, always wins.
I have lived a good long life
A cowgirls dream come true.
Thank you Lord for I am ready
to ride along with you!
Lloree’s graveside service ended, quite appropriately, with guests singing “Happy Trails”.
Lloree is survived by her sister, Ruth Richards, aged 94 of Fresno; son, Jimmy McGuire of Kernville; daughter, Robin Ryan and husband Richy of Silt, Colo.; nine grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. There will be a Memorial Service at Pine Cone in Kernville on March 7. Time to be announced.