Hillcrest Memorial Park and Mortuary
9101 Kern Canyon Road
Bakersfield, CA 93306
(661) 366-5766
For more information about
Funeral Home
Photo Gallery

View Photos

John Russell and Patricia Mae (Sides) Kniffen Jr.

1924 - 2016 Obituary Condolences Flowers
Russ was born in Wasco, CA on August 8, 1924, to Gladys Louise (DeQuine) Kniffen of Los Angeles, CA and John Russell Kniffen, Sr. of Santa Paula, CA. In 1931, at the age of 6, with his parents and four younger siblings, Russ moved to Bakersfield, where he attended local grammar schools and East Bakersfield High School (EBHS). Although Russ was an accomplished flute player, he elected to pursue his talent as a drum major for the EBHS marching band, where he cleverly positioned himself behind the majorette that he described as "having the most beautiful legs I'd ever seen," those of one Patricia Mae Sides. It didn't take Russ long to catch Pat's attention by winking at her as they passed in the halls between classes. Pat recently told Russ' sister, Marie, that she was so smitten, she went home and told her mother, "I have a boyfriend, I just haven't actually met him yet." As Pat and Russ began to date, he learned that they were in the same grade, that Pat was born in Bakersfield, CA on March 22, 1924, the middle child of 3 girls to Annie Laurie (Jones) Sides of Williams Town, Pennsylvania, and Bert O. Sides of, St. Mary's, Missouri who lived at and maintained the grounds and Pro Shop of the Kern River Golf Course. Pat and Russ dated and supported one another through their high school careers, creating mutual friendships, encouraging each others activities, and celebrating each other's successes, such as Russ being awarded the coveted "Harry Coffee Blanket" for outstanding performance of Dagger Football in 1941, and his participation on the school's Board of Commissioners; and Pat's efforts on the Rally Committee and Girl's Athletic Association (GAA). The two were fun-loving, athletic, and beloved by their peers, earning them the title of EBHS's homecoming sweethearts: "Bobby & Betty Blade." They graduated EBHS together in 1942 as the first graduates in the school's history having attended Freshman-Senior years, with Pat being the only Senior among the majorettes at that time, she was the first majorette to ever graduate from EBHS. Although their relationship had been ideal to that point, Pat's dream following high school was to marry and start a family, while Russ was determined to achieve a formal education. Finding themselves at an impasse, they parted ways to pursue their individual life goals.
Russ went on to attend Bakersfield Junior College (BJC) and played Center on the Renegade football team but was called to active duty as a Naval Aviation Cadet in March of 1943, where he received training and education at the University of Southern California, the University of Arizona, as well as Navy Flight Schools. In 1944, he was commissioned as Naval Aviator at Corpus Christi, TX and was attached to Torpedo Bomber Squadrons on the East and West coasts until October of 1945. He was released to inactive duty where he served until 1956 and was discharged as a Lieutenant Junior Grade. He reentered BJC in February of 1946, was Captain of the Renegade football team, again playing Center position but now for Coach Jack Frost. Russ graduated from BJC in June of 1947 with a full athletic scholarship to Stanford University; however, due to a knee injury and subsequent inability to play, lost his scholarship but was blessed to complete his education via his earned Veteran's benefits at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated in June of 1948, where Harry S. Truman presented him with his Bachelor's Degree in Political Science.
Although Russ and Pat had both married other people after high school, with Pat's marriage resulting in the blessing of her first child, William Stanton Agnew on October 23, 1945, neither's marriages survived. In fact, upon Pat's filing for divorce and returning to Bakersfield where she took a job at a local jewelry store, a mutual friend discovered her return and immediately contacted Russ, who called her that same day. Russ respectfully pursued Pat until her divorce was finalized in January of 1947, at which time they began dating. When he was invited to the home of Pat's grandparents' for an introduction, Russ was greeted by her tiny son, who reached up to be held and, once in Russ' strong arms, asked, "Aww you, my new Daddy, Wussle?" Choked up, Russ looked at Pat and answered, "No, but I'd sure like to be." That as his proposal, they became married on Sunday, June 27, 1948, days after Russ received his Bachelor's Degree from Cal. Pat and Stanny moved to San Francisco to join Russ, where he continued to pursue his goal of earning a law degree through courses at Hastings College of Law, a division of the University of California at Berkeley; and while little Stanny attended preschool each day, Pat worked for the Pacific Telephone Company as a Customer Service Representative.
In 1949, with Russ' VA educational benefits depleted, the small family returned to Bakersfield where Russ began work as the Assistant Director of Medical Social Service at Kern General Hospital. In 1956, Russ obtained his general insurance license via night school and correspondence courses and starting his own insurance firm, Russ Kniffen Insurance, where he also did accounting services, collaborating with his brother Richard L. Kniffen, CPA until retiring in 1984. The professional positions that Russ successfully held allowed Pat the opportunity to work at home, raising Stanny, whom Russ legally adopted, and their two children that followed, Marsha Kay Kniffen, born December 17, 1950; and Kevin Bruce Kniffen, born May 06, 1954. Pat proudly served on the Panama School District PTA from 1950-1965 and the South High School PTA from 1960-1972. Pat enjoyed socializing with and supporting her local community through her 10-year membership with the Amoiselles sorority, where she held positions of Publicity Chairman, Vice-President, and President.
As avid travel and fishing enthusiasts, the two RV'd to every state of the Union together. They fished for trout in California, Idaho, and Oregon; and for salmon in Canada (Pat always out-fished Russ!). The two also took great delight in clam digging, enjoying that activity at San Quintin, Baja California but most frequently at Pismo Beach, CA. They enjoyed traveling as tourists to Hawaii, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. But most of all, they enjoyed spending quality time with friends and family at the condominium they purchased in Oceano, CA, a long-term dream realized upon their retirement.
Russ passed on December 23, 2016, and after 68 years of life and love together, within a room full of family at her side, Pat stated, "I just don't want to be without my Sweetheart" and gifted Russ with reuniting with him the on Christmas day, 2016.
Russ was a life member of University of California Alumni Association and Bakersfield College Alumni Association; during his 23 years as a Chapter Member of the Bob Elias Sports Hall of Fame, he had served as Director, Treasurer, and Auditor. Russ belonged to Eagles #93; Elks #2504; American Legion #26; received his degrees in Masonry at Caledonia Masonic Lodge #486 and later affiliated with Meudell-Oildale Lodge #695; S.I.R.S.; and U.S. Navy League. He enjoyed leathercraft and received many awards from the Kern County fair for his beautiful craftsmanship and skill. In 1954, Russ served as President of the Kern County Employees Association, after previously having served as Director. He was a delivery boy for the Bakersfield Californian while in high school. Russ was active in the Boy Scouts of America since 1936, having attained the rank of Eagle Scout. His grandparents, Grant and Louis Kniffen, were early settlers of Wasco and he was descendent of Thomas Stanton, one of the founders of the state of Connecticut.
He and Pat were original donors to build Memorial Hospital.
Pat & Russ are survived by the following: Children: son William "Stan" Kniffen of Bakersfield, CA; daughter Marsha (Kniffen) Ping and her husband John of Humble, TX; son Kevin Kniffen and his wife Susan of Ketchum, ID; grandchildren: Steven Kniffen, David Kniffen, Candace (Kniffen) Holcombe and her husband Steve, Angela (Kniffen) Hessick and her husband Jim, Melissa (Ping) Ledbetter and her husband Tim, Shelby (Ping) Crownover and her husband Spencer, and Nathan Kniffen; great-grandchildren: Matthew Kniffen and his wife Jessica, Melodi (Holcombe) Gibbs and her husband Brandon, Kendra Holcombe, Austin Hessick, and Julia Hessick, Connor Ledbetter, Carson Ledbetter, Riley Ledbetter, Macie Crownover, and Carter Crownover; great-great-grandchildren: Ana Gibbs, William Kniffen, Sean Gibbs, and RaeLynn Gibbs.
Russ is survived by his sister Marie (Kniffen) Goehring of Shafter, CA and was preceded in death by his brothers Richard "Dick" Kniffen and Willard "Bill" Kniffen, and his sister Lida (Kniffen) Renfro.
Pat is survived by her brother Bert Sides and his wife June of Bakersfield, CA and was preceded in death by her brother John Sides, sister Melda Sides, and sister June (Sides) Etcheverry and her husband Martin.
Both Pat and Russ requested that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to one's preferred charity or to
Bakersfield College Athletic Association, 1801 Panorama Drive, Bakersfield, CA 93305
Viewing for both Pat and Russ is offered Wednesday, January 04, 2016 from 4:00-8:00 PM at Hillcrest Memorial Park and Mortuary (9101 Kern Canyon Road, Bakersfield, CA 93306). A double service at Hillcrest will commence on Thursday, January 05, 2017 at 10:00 AM, with graveside, immediately following.
Published in Bakersfield Californian on Jan. 1, 2017
Read More
Planning Guide
Free funeral planning guide compliments of Hillcrest Memorial Park and Mortuary