Clinton Knudson had a knack for turning strangers into family.
As he and his wife traveled the world and taught in the Twin Cities, they nurtured relationships with people they met, from a Kenya tour guide to students at home in Minnesota. Some even came to live for a time in the Knudson home.
Knudson, known as Clint to family and friends, was a beloved teacher and humanitarian, said his grandson, Matt Stoltman. Knudson, who had grown frail in recent years, died Sept. 9. He was 94.
"You couldn't have asked for a better grandfather," Stoltman said. "He was a pretty special man."
Knudson was born on a small farm in Hutchinson, Minn., and graduated from high school there before serving in the military during World War II.
Stoltman said his grandfather was a tank gunner and among those who landed at Normandy on D-Day. He continued to serve on the European front until he was wounded in Germany.
After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Gustavus Adolphus College and a master's degree in education at the University of Texas.
He married Barbara Knudson in July 1950. As newlyweds, they left on what they called "our own version of Peace Corps," moving to Austria for two years to help resettle refugees displaced after World War II.
In 1967, they moved their family to Kenya, where Knudson worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development and Columbia University's Teacher Education to East Africa program, preparing African teachers.
That's where Knudson and his wife met Jama Gulaid, a young tour guide. They quickly struck up a familial rapport, Gulaid said.
After the Knudsons moved back to the United States, Gulaid came to visit for holidays and lived with them on and off while completing a master's degree at the University of Minnesota.
"He treated me like a son," said Gulaid, whose own children called the Knudsons "grandma" and "grandpa."
It was the Knudsons, Gulaid said, who cheered his career successes, encouraged his love of humanitarian work and supported his kids' educational achievements.
"He was humble, kind and cared about humanity," Gulaid said of Clint Knudson. "I couldn't have done all of that without them."
Knudson traveled widely, but he had many hobbies at home, too. He was an avid reader of the Star Tribune, the New York Times and the New Yorker. He loved solving crossword puzzles, listening to classical music and collecting plants and rocks.
In the Twin Cities, Knudson taught science for nearly three decades at the Northrop and Blake schools. Over that time, he taught biology, physiology, anatomy and genetics and coached the Quiz Bowl team.
His daughter, Kim Knudson, said he liked to joke with everybody, including his students, calling them all by one of three names: Henry, George or Fritz. The family children and pets were also subject to the name games. Kim said he called her "George," and a family cat was named Fritz.
"He was a wonderful father," she said.
He retired in 1988, but he continued to teach anatomy and physiology at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and St. Catherine University.
Knudson was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara, who was a faculty member at the U, and children Cameron Knudson and Tracy Stoltman. In addition to Kim Knudson of Greensboro, Vt., he is survived by a son, Dana Knudson of Minneapolis, and seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Services have been held.