October 25, 1923-December 13, 2020
Often described as a force of nature, Billie Youngblood-Knolle, a trailblazing woman of her era, who achieved success in many arenas, died peacefully in her sleep on December 13, 2020. She was 97. A San Marino resident for 60 years, she was born to William and Lucille Kolb, on October 25, 1923 in Ontario, Canada while they were there on extended business. Billie moved to her childhood home, Appleton, Wisconsin while still an infant.
A life-long learner, Billie graduated from Appleton High School in 1941. She first attended Lawrence University, pledging Kappa Alpha Theta. Transferring to the University of Minnesota her sophomore year, Billie majored in English and Fine Arts with a minor in Journalism. She graduated Cum Laude in December 1944 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in which she remained active, serving for many years on the PBK Southern California Counselor Board.
Her career frequently found her the sole woman on the team. In high school, summers found Billie working full-time at a drafting table for Marathon Paper. During college, she designed wartime K-ration packaging and camouflage patterns for Container Corporation. Moving to New York City in 1948, she joined Architectural Forum magazine, soon followed by a transfer to sister publication LIFE magazine, where she spent a decade as a copywriter and media manager, the first woman to break the glass ceiling in each department.
Moving to San Marino in 1961, she started the popular San Marino Tribune column, “Who’s Who on Huntington,” which informed readers about current trends in products and services at local vendors. Her next venture, San Marino Quarterly magazine, delivered in- depth community stories and profiles to every resident. In 1968 she was recruited by Peat, Marwick & Mitchell to initiate its first strategic marketing efforts in the L.A. office. Billie was only the third woman in the firm’s history promoted to management. Upon her retirement, she launched her own successful marketing and design consultancy continuing for a decade.
San Marino also benefitted from her talents. She wrote and designed “Excellence in Education,” an overview of the San Marino Schools. For the 1990 General Plan, Billie edited and designed the finished report to enhance its effectiveness. Later, she served on the Suzanne Crowell Library Board of Trustees. In the broader community, she joined the board of Five Acres in the 1980s, serving for over a decade. She also served as President of the Pasadena Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta Alumnae. Valuing the importance of eye sight in her own life made membership in Doheny Eye Institute’s Luminaires a natural. For her decades of service to the community, San Marino Rotary recognized her with its highest honor, The Paul Harris Fellowship in 2015.
Active at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church, she served several terms on the Vestry. Regionally, she sat on the Editorial Board of the Episcopal News and served on the Diocesan Communications Group. In 1992, for the 125th anniversary of Church of Our Saviour, she curated the parish history timeline.
She is survived by her son Bill, with wife Janice, and grandchildren Billy, Robert, and Sarah; and son Charlie, with wife Glynis, and granddaughters Christine and Nicole. Love came again at age 82 when she met and married the late Franklin Knolle.
A service is planned for October 25, 2021, her 98th birthday, at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church. In lieu of flowers the family invites gifts to Five Acres and Doheny Eye Institute.