Halsey G. Knapp, entrenched in community

December 26, 2017

Surrounded by the love of his family, Halsey G. Knapp passed away peacefully Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, three houses down from the Lewes Beach cottage in which he was born 90 years ago to Leslie G. and Maude H. Knapp.

Halsey grew up on his parents’ farm, Nassau Orchards, and attended school in Lewes, hiking uphill both ways, until high school, at which point he attended The Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., graduating in 1945. He then immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to a naval base in Michigan, where he claimed that he helped to win the war by numbering and packing up old mattresses. Afterwards, he enrolled in Cornell University's College of Agriculture, earning his bachelor of science degree in 1950. He was a proud member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

On Sept. 16, 1950, he married the love of his life, Joan Davisson of Swarthmore, Pa., at the Swarthmore United Methodist Church. It was his life's greatest achievement. Halsey and Joan made their first home in Shiloh, N.J., where their first child, Deborah Ann Knapp, was born. In New Jersey, Halsey worked for Gorson & McCormick, managing the farm and growing peaches, apples and vegetables of the kind that would later bring renown to Nassau Orchards. Several years later, after a visit from his father, Halsey and Joan returned to Lewes to raise a family of four children, Debbie, Halsey, Amy and Gay, and for Halsey to work side by side with his father at Nassau Orchards, one of the many outlets for his genius. Here, he determined to grow apples better than anyone north, and peaches better than anyone south of Delaware, a feat that he succeeded in despite a number of skeptics. Additionally, he was the first to plant dwarf rootstock apple trees in the state, and he brought the trellis system with it, along with a number of other agricultural achievements which were the foundation for the success of the Nassau Orchards Market.

Halsey's life, love and efforts were not singularly focused on the farm, however. His roots were deeply entrenched within the entire Lewes community. He was a lifetime member and, at one point, president of the Lewes Rotary Club; a Boy Scout leader; a board member of the Disciplinary Council for Delaware lawyers; an elder within the Lewes Presbyterian Church; one of the two appointed Sussex County representatives of the Delaware Council on Transportation; and a member of the Rehoboth Beach Country Club and Lewes Yacht Club. He was especially proud of his contributions to Beebe Hospital on the board of directors, where he served for over 51 years, and was appointed as an emeritus member in 2011. He notably spent 13 years as the board's treasurer, a number of years as vice chairman, then chairman of the board, and also 10 years as the chair of the finance committee, as well as serving as chair and member of various other committees. Here, he helped to develop the hospital from its humble beginnings into the fine establishment it is today, with his proudest accomplishment being the advancement of the Beebe School of Nursing.

However, despite his number of achievements and honors, Halsey always retained his stubborn humility and humor. He will be remembered by his family for his sharp wit, big heart and affinity for card games.

Halsey was preceded in death by his wife, Joan Davisson Knapp; his daughter, Deborah Ann Knapp; his grandson, Leslie G. Marini; and his sister, Nancy Knapp Allen.

Halsey is survived by his son, Halsey G. Knapp Jr. and his wife Lyn Rogers Knapp of Atlanta, Ga., and their children, Halsey G. Knapp III of Ft. Collins, Colo. and Evelyn Arden Knapp of Washington, D.C.; his daughter, Amy Knapp Rumford and her three sons, William Walker Rumford V, Brook Ives Rumford and his wife, Erin Rumford, and Bryce Knapp Rumford of Glen Mills, Pa.; and his youngest daughter, Gay Knapp Marini and her daughters, Deborah Knapp Marini and Kathryn Frances Marini of Lewes.

A Celebration of Life will be held at the Lewes Yacht Club, 2701 Cedar St., Lewes, from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. Arrangements handled by Parsell Funeral Homes and Crematorium, Lewes.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing, c/o Beebe Healthcare, 424 Savannah Road, Lewes, DE 19958.

Please visit Halsey's Life Memorial Webpage and sign his online guestbook at