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Obituaries (Archives)

May 8, 2014

Mary Alice (Molly) Knox

PITTSBURGH — Mary Alice (Molly) Knox, 66, of the South Side, Pittsburgh, died following a long struggle with fibromyalgia and other chronic pain on Sunday, April 27, 2014.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, to John Adair Knox and Alice Butlin Knox, Molly graduated from Mathews High School in Vienna, Ohio, and then earned both a bachelor of arts and a master of arts degree from Allegheny College in Meadville. As part of her master’s program, she spent a life-changing year teaching in a Cleveland inner-city high school.

Molly’s life of service to others began with her high school and church involvements as a teenager. It blossomed when she and a group of Allegheny friends collaborated with Meadville community members to launch a social services center for disadvantaged families. What began as Unity Center in 1971 — built with volunteer labor and donations, converting an abandoned house on the edge of town — became Unity Institute, a recognized exemplar of effective nonprofit, community-based, comprehensive services, countering the effects of discrimination, poverty and neglect. Molly led in the conversion of an old high school into the very visible Unity Institute building downtown.

Molly was a co-founder of Meadville’s Women’s Services Inc., a nonprofit that operates a shelter and services for abused women and children.

During this time, even as she spent long days at Unity Institute, Molly lived in the midst of the renovation of a 19th century brick schoolhouse that became her stunning Meadville residence.

Following a move to Pittsburgh, Molly joined the staff of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) in 1984, first as education director and then as executive director. Following her passion for civil rights and women’s empowerment, she led PAAR through a period of dramatic growth and forged linkages with wider efforts for justice and healing, including Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and local women’s shelters. She was a visible and passionate voice for addressing the threats of sexual violence and for healing its effects with counseling and other supportive services. Under Molly’s leadership, PAAR moved to a landmark renovated former church on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

Molly’s personal struggle with chronic pain, which had arisen from multiple health problems, finally made it difficult to continue a rigorous work schedule. She received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, when that diagnosis was still rare. After leaving PAAR, she became a loving and supportive member of a community of Pittsburgh people seeking to mitigate chronic pain conditions. A lively focus of this activity was her pool exercise group at Club One in East Liberty, where she was considered one of the Mermaids.

Molly was predeceased by her parents and is survived by her brother, John A. Knox of San Francisco.

Services in celebration of Molly’s life are being planned for both Meadville and Pittsburgh. For details, please contact johnknox@earthisland.org.

Donations in Molly’s name should be made to Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh or to Women’s Services Inc., in Meadville. Professional Services by D’Alessandro Funeral Home & Crematory Ltd., Pittsburgh.

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