Officials of the Liberia football Association and Liberia’s oldest old-timers football association, Alpha, joined hundreds of others to celebrate the life of the late Willis D. Knuckles, Jr. and joined well wishers to comfort the family he left behind.
The late Willis DeFrancis Knuckles, 69, was laid to rest at his family’s cemetery in Careysburg, Monsterrado County.
The Acting President of Alpha Old-timers Sports Association, Prof. Sunny Nyemah, said while the members of the club are devastated by his death, they have resolved to name their stadium, popularly known as Alpha (Zubah Town and/or George Weah) Sports Stadium, to his memory.
Prof. Nyemah made the announcement on Saturday, August 16, 2014 to climax his tribute paid the deceased at the Seys United Methodist Church at Mount Vorblee, Careysburg.
He stated that the number nine (9) jersey belonging to Mr. Knuckles, affectionately called Bob Willis, would be retired for his reliable and dedicated contribution towards the organization.
The late Knuckles was a founding member of the Alpha Old-timers Sports Association in the 1970s, which he served over the years as its general captain and president. He and Cllr. Theophilus Gould are considered the organization’s Honorary Presidents for Life.
The former president of Alpha, now Deputy Minister for Sports, Henry Yonton, said Mr. Knuckles would always be remembered for his fundraising and leadership skills.
Prior to the organization of Alpha, from 1964-1968, Bob Willis was a member of the National Volleyball Team, which included Eugene Peabody, Granville Dennis, Sr., Jim Holder, Clarence Acolatse, Alwin Sackor, Alfred Weeks, John Diggs and Tarpeh Roberts, according to information reaching the Daily Observer. It won the West African Zone 3 Championship in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire in 1964.
The team also represented Liberia at the First All-African Games in Congo, Brazzaville in 1965.
He was then appointed Assistant Minister of Sports in the Ministry of Labor, Youth and Sports, during the tenure of Minister Estrada J. Bernard, by the late William R. Tolbert, Jr., in 1979. Following his successful organization of a six-nation tournament won by Liberia, he was elevated to the position of Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports, the assignment he held until his resignation in June 1980.
From 1972 – 1975, Mr. Knuckles served as secretary general of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) and later as vice chairman, from 1984-1986 with the late President Doe as. LFA’s ceremonial chairman.
During his administration, Liberian football moved from mat to mattress, and he was assisted by Mr. Paul E. Mulbah, as chief of operations, with the late Marcel E. Bertin as secretary general and Harry M. Attoh as administrative secretary.
He introduced major reforms, including the establishment of sub-committees and sub-associations throughout the country.
A regular football league was also put in place, and the Invincible Eleven IE) versus Mighty Barrolle regulars were replaced with a system that saw the creation of the new teams such as Monrovia Black Star, Fulani FC, Young Eagles, St. Joseph Warriors, LPRC Oilers and NPA Anchors.
“With effective administrative skills, backed by presidential support and funding, Knuckles began [the kind of] football that brought out the George Weah/James Debbah generation,” the Liberian Gazette said.
He is survived by his widow, Hawa Evelyn Knuckles; three children, Hawa-Ellen Knuckles, Willis D. Knuckles, III (Marie), and Ethel V. Knuckles; his mother, Ethel Dunbar Wah; twelve (12) brothers and sisters Bushin Wilson, Gabriel, Raymond, Marie Foko, William, Benedict, Pitman, Emma Burl Sea, Ethel Coomber, Estella, Mawolo and Robert; two grandchildren, scores of nieces and nephews, cousins and a host of other relative and friends in Liberia and abroad.