Despite his easy-going and entertaining nature, Don Knotts experienced a great deal of tragedy and loss during his youth. He was born in Morgantown, West Virginia to a family with only brothers. Unfortunately, his parents weren’t quite ready for him being added to the family tree. Knott’s father couldn’t deal with the pressure of another male child and eventually found himself having a mental breakdown, which resulted in a full loss of his mental function due to becoming a paranoid schizophrenic and an alcoholic. These two likely fueled each other, as mental illness is often both the cause and the result of alcoholism and vice-versa.
It was not just his father that suffered a tragic break-down though, as Knott’s older brother Earl, who was often called “Shadow” due to being very thin and fragile, died from asthma in 1942 when Knotts was just a teenager. The grieving brother was sent into military service just a year later, where his job was to entertain other soldiers. It’s unclear whether Knott’s sense of humor came despite his life’s tragedies or as a result of them. Actors like Jim Carrey often describe how their family’s troubles actually caused them to become entertainers. This might have been the case with Knotts as-well.
The Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity
When Don Knotts went to college, he was a member of a popular fraternity called Phi Sigma Kappa. It was originally founded on March 15, 1873, at the Massachusetts Agricultural College in Amherst.
After almost a decade of existence, the fraternity merged with Phi Sigma Epsilon in 1985, this event was considered to be one of the largest mergers of Greek-letter fraternities at the time.
Don Knotts went to university in West Virginia and received his Bachelor’s degree in Education during the late ‘40s. The veteran didn’t end up using his degree in the field of education, as he went on to take up various menial jobs, only to eventually become a popular actor. However, if he had indeed gone on to become a teacher, we assume he would have been one of the most beloved and entertaining teachers in the entire United States.
Up until this point in his life, Knotts had accomplished a fair amount of things, from serving during World War II as a decorated veteran to finishing university with his Bachelor's degree in Education. He had quite a promising future ahead of him and was looking to make the most out of his life. We’re happy to spoil the ending and tells you that he did a fantastic job at that, so it’s not a surprise that Knotts eventually even got his own statue erected in his memory.
His First Marriage
Don Knotts has been married several times throughout his life, his first marriage however was his longest-running one, as the others were definitely less successful. Knotts married Kathryn Metz in 1947 and the two were together for almost two decades until 1966. They had two children together, Thomas Knotts and Karen Knotts, with the latter eventually pursuing an acting career herself. Despite not being a well known actress, there’s no doubt that her last name must have given her a boost when the time came for casting.
His daughter, Karen, went to school at the USC School of Cinematic Art and also went on to work as a standup comic and a SAG/AFTRA actress. Don and his wife Katheryn got divorced in 1966, with Don subsequently marrying a second wife, divorcing her, and then marrying a third.
His Second Marriage
Eight years after divorcing Katheryne and ending their almost two-decades-long marriage, Don Knotts found his second wife and got married again. This time the lucky (or unlucky) lady was Loralee Czuchna, and the two got married in 1974. This marriage lasted slightly less time than the previous one, and after 15 years it also ended in divorce. In the early ‘70s, rumors of Don going through a mental health breakdown were beginning to circle the media. Here’s what the actual story was…
Apparently, Don was going through a severe bout with depression that began with him obsessing about his health. His depression gradually became worse over time and was cited as the reason for the married couple growing apart over the years until their eventual divorce. The actor was fully engaged in his depression by the time the couple ended their relationship, and the separation left him dealing with both his damaged mental state, as-well-as the painful feelings associated with the separation from one’s spouse. It took Don almost 15 years until he decided to get married again after that.