Dr. William V. McKnelly, Jr.


 Dr. William V. McKnelly, Jr. 83, of Overland Park KS, died suddenly on October 10th while preparing to go to work. He was a professor of Psychiatry at the University of Kansas Medical Center where he served as a faculty member since 1961. Bill is survived by his wife Joyce, and daughters Maureen McKnelly, Michele McKnelly (Thomas Smisek), Jennifer McKnelly-Ginn (Bruce Ginn), grandchildren Sandra(Chad Brown) and Sean McCann, Thomas W. Smisek, Lauren Riccelli, Bruce III, Ryan and Christopher Ginn(Ashley), great grandson Rowan McCann Brown and his brother L. D.(Skip), McKnelly (Deanna) of Jefferson City MO and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his sons William Von McKnelly, III, infant Henry McKnelly, and his sister Mary Alyce Craig.


Bill was born in St. Louis and grew up in Chamois and Jefferson City, Mo. He was a graduate of Westminster College, the University of Missouri, and St. Louis University’s Medical Schools. He was professor of Psychiatry at The University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) where he has had an important role in the training program helping to educate three generations of Kansas doctors. He had served the university since 1961, and was the most senior active full-time faculty member. He also served as a staff psychiatrist at the VA Hospital in KCMO from 1961 until 2011. He was the founder and Director of the Methadone Clinic for Opiate Addiction and Director of the Lithium Clinic for Affective Disorders at KUMC. He was a member of the American College of Psychiatrists, served as President of the Missouri Psychiatric Society from 1973-74 and was President of the Western Missouri District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association from 1972-73.  Bill served in the US Navy as a lieutenant and staff psychiatrist from 1957-59.


Dr. McKnelly always seemed to have unlimited energy and willingness to do what was needed.  He was perceived by colleagues as someone who would advocate tirelessly for his patients and trainees.  He had a fine sense of humor and will be greatly missed by his family, friends and patients.

Memorial Service


A memorial service will be held at the Old Mission United Methodist Church, Fairway, Kansas. There will be a visitation from 3-5 p.m.,  October 16, 2012, the service will begin at 5:00 p.m.


Memorial Contributions


The family requests no flowers and suggests contributions to the The Salvation Army, 3637 Broadway, Kansas City, Missouri 64111.




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Posted in Obituaries | on Thursday, Oct. 11th 2012 | 44 Comments »

44 Comments on “Dr. William V. McKnelly, Jr.”

  1. Dr. Teri Smith Says:

    I have clients scheduled until late next Tuesday, so cannot attend, but my thoughts and prayers are with your family for the weeks and months to come. It is still difficult to believe that someone so full of life is no longer with us. Every time I think of Dr. McKnelly, I have to smile. He was just that kind of person. He will be missed a great deal here at the KU and remembered fondly.

  2. Dr. Joan Collison Says:

    Dr. McKnelly helped train me to become a psychiatrist, and his impact on me, and I’m sure countless others, is indelible. As his junior colleague at KU in more recent years, I was fortunate to continue to interact with him and both enjoy and continue to learn from his inimitable style. His presence in our department helped to define it, and he will be missed tremendously. Your entire family will remain in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. Dr. Debra Kelsh Says:

    When I think about the best parts of my time at KUMC as a student, resident and faculty, I immediately think of Dr. McKnelly. He was a maverick in the field of psychiatry. He was joyful, fun and so smart! As a resident, if he was on during my weekend call, I knew I could look forward to learning a few things while enjoying the donuts he always brought. Even after leaving KU, he continued to mentor me. I will miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

  4. Noreen Thompson PMHCNS-BC Says:

    Dear family and friends,

    I have known Dr. McKnelly since 1984 when I first joined the Psychiatric Consult services. He was such a generous person. There were many times in my career that I called upon him for adviice with patients in the medical side of the hospital. I sometimes worked as a staff nurse on the weekends and he consistently would arrive with donuts for all the nurses and other staff. His interactions with patients were always compassionate and non-judgmental. I was honored to work with him. It is hard to believe I won’t see him again. He will be missed by so many people including his patients. I am so thankful to have known him. My prayers and thoughts are with you all today. Noreen

  5. Victor Raider-Wexler Says:

    I met Dr. McNelly just once. At the autumn picnic for psychiatric residents in 2007. We fell into conversation which became extended perhaps because we shared spinal stenosis. I was fascinated by him. I followed his lead in my approach to treatment for my back. I was struck by his wisdom and kindness. I asked after him and passed along my regards over the years. He returned the favor. I will miss knowing he is there. My sincere condolences .

    Victor Raider-Wexler

  6. Ann Stevens (Mrs. Roy) Says:

    I was so sorry to learn of Dr. McKnelly’s passing. He was very comforting to me over the years as I dealt with Roy’s many trips to the VA Hospital for his mental illness. I am sure I got him out of bed several times. Roy spent his last six years at the Missouri Veteran’s Home in Warrensburg. He passed away in February 2009. I know Dr. McKnelly will be missed by many people and you, his family, will especially miss him but you can appeciate all the people he helped, many of whom I am sure would not have received care except for him.

  7. Susan Sharp, D.O. Says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Dr. McKnelly while I was a resident and then later as junior faculty at KU. In that time, I have admired his honesty, wisdom, fearlessness, sense of humor, and his natural ability to teach and listen. I always looked forward to staffing the child fellows in clinic on Wednesday afternoons, partly because I knew Dr. McKnelly would be staffing the general residents, and I enjoyed watching his passions for teaching, learning, and brightening the days of the clinic staff, and residents. He will be missed greatly.

  8. Ravinder Goswami Says:

    I had the opportunity to work with him for some time as a resident in my second year, then as fourth year in the methadone clinic. I was amazed by his humble, humorous, down to earth nature. I remember coming in to round during the weekends , he was always greeting everyone with donuts including his patients. He was a kind, thoughtful , soul who taught us residents to be kind to everyone. He had touched many during his journey with his kindness and would be missed by all who walked with him for some time. My condolence to the family. He will be missed.

  9. Jessica Hellings M.D. Says:

    Dr Mac was such a great human being ,friend, colleague and psychiatrist with a love of people and patients. A gentle soul who always had time to stop and chat, and share a joke or smile! He was an example to us all, and will live on in countless peoples’ fond memories.
    He must be enjoying life in heaven already!

  10. James D True MD Says:

    What a great physician and teacher. We all will remember him and miss him and his impassioned humanity and generosity for all.

  11. Carolyn Rowe RN Says:

    Dr. McKnelly was a true pioneer and trail blazer in the treatment of addictions. Against many odds, he established the first methadone treatment program in the greater KC area in the late 60s and provided care and treatment for patients thereafter. He was never going to retire. He influenced so many and was always attentive to the emotional concerns of those he served and with whom he worked. Reading the tributes written above paints a picture of the positive impact made throughout his life. I’m sad I’m unable to attend the funeral to pay my respects and say good-by. He will be forever in my thoughts. My deepest condolences to his family. His life was well lived and he’ll be missed by many..

  12. Vijay Uppalapati Says:

    My sincere condolences to Dr. McKnelly’s family. I can not believe he is not around anymore. A week before he passed away he asked me to show him how the “iPhone” works and because he wanted to get “one of those gadgets.” Working under him as a resident, I learned how one can enjoy life being a life-long learner. He told me once how he learned from a patient of his how low should a tie hang. Interactions with him were always rejuvenating. His interactions with the patients made them feel at home like no other. I missed out on finishing my training under him. But, will forever remember to be kind, genuine, and helpful to my patients like he had been all his life. So long Dr. McKnelly. Your legacy will live on!

  13. Janice (daughter of "Reb") Says:

    Dr. McKnelly was my mother’s doctor for 50 years. Both named Bill, he called her “Reb,” for Rebel, his nickname for her. In our family, he was always referred to simply as “McKnelly.” They had an indescribable relationship, bantering back and forth, challenging each other, a relationship they both enjoyed—he probably less than her! I only had the pleasure of meeting McKnelly once, in person, just a few years ago. I adored him immediately. Being a daughter of a woman who suffered from mental illness my entire life, I could not have been more thankful for McKnelly: his compassion, his wonderful sense of humor, but, most importantly, his brilliance. I know she was thankful, too. My mother passed away recently. She would have wanted me to say how much he meant to her. Thank you, McKnelly, from the bottom of our hearts for everything you did for my mother, for me, and for our family. You made a tremendous impact in this world. Somehow, too, I imagine her waiting to greet him. Oh, if I could be a fly on the wall. I can hear McKnelly groan, then laugh, and shoo her away with his “Okay, Reb,” as he continues to take it all in stride. To his family, please know that I am deeply sorry for your loss. What a wonderful man and human being. It makes me sad to know that this world no longer has Dr. McKnelly…. Safe travels, McKnelly. You will be missed. And if you see Reb, run.

  14. Charles D. Donohoe, MD Says:

    Dr. McKnelly was an extraordinary physician. He loved medicine and loved his patients even more. In this world it is difficult to make a difference. Dr. McKnelly made a major contribution and his career stands as a model for the rest of us.

  15. william b. seach Says:

    Dr William V. McKnelly,Jr
    Academically had achieved many degrees but, the one for which there was no official designation was in the background of Advocacy!

    An old Chinese proverb indicated if:
    You wish to survive for one year,plant rice
    You wish to survive for ten years ,plant rice
    You wish to survive for one hundred years, educate men!
    I sincerely believe that the Advocacy iinstilled, embraced by Dr Mcknelly towards we veterans and others stands a good chance of being carried forward in multi genereational memories that allow for that one hundred year achievemeent to have been attained by one of the most generous and caring professionals ever to staff a veteran’s facility.

    Thank You, Dr McKnelly for the invaluable education you consistently provided to so many of us!

    william seach
    us army
    rvn 1970/71

  16. Tom McGurk Says:

    I am sorry about your loss. Unfortunately I will be unable to be at the service. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  17. Kris Rosenberg Says:

    My husband Dan, now deceased, had the great good fortune of having been treated by Dr. McKnelly at the VA hospital for several years. He was the kindest, most gracious man who helped Dan overcome the selfconciousness he felt having suffered a slight stroke. He was one of those persons who come along and, while we actually spent very little time with him, he made a huge impact on our lives and I will never forget him. I am so sorry for your loss but he did make a difference in this world. God bless your family.

  18. Bob Kennedy Says:

    I knew Dr.Dr. McKnelly when I worked at the KCVA from 1986 through most of 2004. I’ve enjoyed reading the postings of others’ remembrances of him; they are so true of my experiences with this remarkable man. I’ve missed him since my retirement, and I’ll continue to miss him now. What a guy. My heart goes out to his family. God bless you all.

  19. Janet E. True MD Says:

    No artifice, no pretentions. He was open honest and just so there for his patients as well as all those who learned from him. He was a courageous man. I miss him.

  20. Phil and Randi Bourns Says:

    Bill was a good man with a great sense of humor. He had a smile that would stop a train which was good because he enjoyed trains. His visits to our house in St. Paul, MN when he was here visiting Michele, Tom and Thomas were enjoyable and filled with political conversations, history “lessons” and a pretty good glass of wine.
    He and Joyce were fun to be with and we will always remember them together. We are made sad by Bill’s death and hope he is enjoying conversations, now, with the wits who went before him.
    Salud, Biill.

  21. bill kostar Says:

    I became a patient of Dr. McKnelly when he practiced at the VA Hospital and he was not only a great help professionally, but we became great conversational friends who collected articles and ideas between appointments and had great delight in sharing them during those visits. The best that can be said of a peson is that he was caring, interesting, fun, and most especially, his own person, and Dr. McKneely was all those things.
    I very much missed his counsel when he left the VA, thank him for his helping to get me back on track, and wish his family my very deepest condolences and warm wishes at his passing.

  22. Susan Bennett Green Says:

    My mother, Rowena Bennett, was one of Dr. McKnelly’s patients. He was her lifeline, really, for much of her life. She predeceased him by a few months, or she would be the first to offer condolences to the family. Our entire family joins in expressing our sympathy to your family, and our admiration and gratitude to Dr. McKnelly. I live in Virginia, and so am sorry that I will not be able to offer my kind wishes in person.
    Susan Bennett Green

  23. Vishal Adma MD Says:

    Dr. McKnelly was a thorough gentleman living life to its fullest. He had a great sense of humor, and a devoted work ethic. I still remember the questions he used to raise in grand rounds with his special tone of voice. He is one person that I have come across in my life who never believed in retirement, and always believed in working and serving in one’s life. We will miss you dearly…..

  24. Julie Bennett Hume Says:

    Dr. McKnelley was a great help to my family over the past thirty years. He was a wonderful doctor and a treasured family friend. I know he will be greatly missed by many people.

  25. Shayla Sullivant MD Says:

    I remember the first weekend I was on call with Dr. McKnelly-he went to go get me a doughnut because he was concerned all the nurses and patients would them before I got my favorite kind—a small thing, but a symbol to me of his generosity,and how he just really cared about you as a person. Grand Rounds will never be the same at KU without him. Even with the most boring speaker, I was always awake to hear what questions Dr. McKnelly had, given he had that way of saying what many were thinking but too afraid to voice. And he did it with such humor it makes me smile to this day. His patients loved him in a way I have rarely seen. To his family I send my warmest wishes of peace in this time of loss.

  26. Steve Duncan Says:

    “Mac” was a wonderful man. My family (Duncans and Stonners from Chamois, MO) and the McKnelly’s go back to the time when Mac’s father, Dr. William V. “Mac” McKnelly”, first came to Chamois to practice medicine in the 1940s. One of my favorite recollections of Mac was my freshman year at Central Missouri State (now University of Central Missouri) in 1969 and Mac came to Warrensburg to watch a Chiefs game on TV in my dorm because the game was blacked out in Kansas City. God bless the entire McKnelly family.

  27. Marty Schiffman Bowers Says:

    “Mac” was a wonderfully supportive physician to my late mother and a great friend to my father, during her lengthy mental illness.
    My fondest memories of him were riding his bicycle over to our house to visit with my dad, talk and have a drink together. He would be huffing and puffing, waving his arms around (always a hug) , red faced and smiling!
    Without his friendship and support, my father would have never have gotten through the nightmare of my mother’s mental illness, intact and with a positive attitude.
    Mac was certainly a special and caring man who was fortunate to be able to practice in a time and place that allowed him to be true to his beliefs and become a friend to his patient’s and family.
    I am very sure there were many others that he treated in this special way and made a huge difference in their lives, as well as their family members.
    He will be missed, but not forgotten.
    Thanks Mac!
    My thoughts are with his family
    Marty Schiffman Bowers
    Scottsdale, AZ

  28. Georgia Wolfe Says:

    Dr. McKnelly was such a special doctor. He was my son’s doctor for 28 years and will be missed so much by my family. Blessings to his family.

  29. Ali A. Arbab, M. D. Says:

    I grieve with you the loss of a wonderful friend and mentor. Pray that the happy memories of this this great physician will sustain the family,many friends and patients.

  30. Gail Honn Says:

    I had the distinct pleasure of working with Dr. Mac during the 1960’s. Such a wonderful, delightful, caring person. Reminded me of a big, old favorite teddy bear. Life was so different back then and those of us who had an opportunity to work with him were indeed blessed by his presence. Prayers up to his children and grandchildren. Your father and grandfather was very special to a lot of people.

  31. Kevin Martin Says:

    I have fond memories of Dr. McKnelly. Although I hadn’t seen him in years, I remember him as compassionate, wise, and having a fun sense of humor. I’ve always thought of him as a great example of a father and family man. I am so sorry for the loss of such a wonderful man. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  32. Erin "Quincy" Humphrey, DO Says:

    Dr McKnelly was one of my attendings during my residency at KU Medical Center and KCVA. He was a wonderful mentor, caring psychiatrist and had one of the best senses of humor I have ever encountered. He embodied what a true psychiatrist and physician is and will be greatly missed. I have and always will use the skills that he taught me for my own patients in my practice. He is responsible for giving me my nickname, “Quincy” which I will always cherish! My prayers go out to his family. He might have passed from this earth, but will live on through our memories of him.

  33. William Rinck, M.D. Says:

    When I applied for a staff position at the Kansas City VA in 1972, Dr. McKnelly was one of five physicians who interviewed me. Although I forget the other 4 physicians, I still remember talking with Dr Mc that day. He was warm, intensely honest, and had strong feelings (mostly positive) about most of the things we discussed.

    Working with Dr. McKnelly through the years, I can say he was one of the few who really made a difference. He was loved by staff and patients alike.

    When he retired from the VA recently, we were sharing the same office.

    I shall miss him!

  34. Allene McComb Says:

    Dear Maureen,
    Judging by the tributes above, your father was a wonderful man. Now I understand where you got your cheery dispostion and that great smile! I am very sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you. As time passes, may sadness fade and may you be left with only happy and lasting memories.
    I will see you soon.
    With great affecton,
    Allene McComb

  35. Kathleen Rolfingsmeier Says:

    He saved my sanity. He saved my life.
    How will I live without this good man?
    Only by the grace of God and knowing his spirit continues to walk beside me.

  36. George Ann Eaks APRN, CDE, BC-ADM Says:

    Dear family members,
    I was just told of Dr. McKnelly’s death and like many I was shocked as I just recently sit next to him at a funeral for his barber. i worked at KU for 40 years and he would frequently come to my office and we would visit. He always helped me with patients whether they could afford him or not. Not only was he a “sweet” man, he was a master in his field. He was always there to help persons in need. After I left KU I would see him at the Hair shop and we would catch up on happenings since our last visit. Like you, his family, we will all feel a hole in our hearts with his loss and like you we will have many fun and happy memories to keep him alive in our hearts. Grace, George Ann

  37. Kathy Erbacher Says:

    I just learned of Dr. McKnelly’s passing. He was a wonderful, kind & caring doctor and helped my family greatly over the years. I can’t come to the memorial service as I now live in Colorado, but will be thinking of him. I know his wonderful spirit lives on. Your family is in my thoughts & prayers, and my family’s. Please take care.

    Kathy Erbacher
    Montrose CO

  38. Gary Horner, Ph.D. Says:

    I first met Dr. McKnelly in 1969 when my brother-in-law had a manic episode and was inpatient at KUMC. I went on to refer patients needing medication management to Dr. Mcknelly for many years. I attended Grand Rounds thru the years and always enjoyed Bill’s insights and wonderful sense of humor. He was a very funny guy. He always found a way to take extra time when his patients needed it and he had great rapport with even the more difficult ones. He was a pillar at KUMC department of psychiatry for many years. Peace to all.

  39. Ruth Appelhanz Says:

    A former co-worker at KU Med called last night to inform me that Dr. McKnelly had passed away. I thoroughly enjoyed working for Dr. McKnelly as his secretary many years ago and looked forward to hearing from him at Christmas time every year. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  40. Katie McRoberts Says:

    My Mom moved here from Brooklyn, NY in her late 20s, and started seeing Dr. McKnelly. He was her doctor, he was her friend and he was an amazing and hysterical man. I started seeing him in 2000, and was his patient for over ten years. He did so much for so many, and this sudden loss was such a shock but in a way, it wasn’t. We always knew he’d work up until the day he slipped away. He treated me for over ten years for various psychiatric needs, and although we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, he never backed down from what he believed in, and neither did I.

  41. Nancy Erbacher Julian Says:

    For many years Dr. McKnelly treated my mother and various family members, including me, for the severe depression that plagues our family. His great kindness gave me the courage to go on at a time when I was sick, and desperate, and alone. It would be impossible to overstate the great, and positive, impact that Dr. McKnelly had on my life.

    I knew Dr. McKnelly before the forces of political correctness overtook our society. I will always remember his wonderful, and outrageous, sense of humor; many of his caustic comments would be considered beyond the pale today, yet they always made me laugh and, more importantly, they were always tempered by his deep compassion for human suffering.

    Dr. McKnelly’s presence made the world a better place. To his wife and family I offer my deepest condolences for the loss of such a wonderful man.

    Nancy Erbacher Julian
    Philadelphia, PA

  42. John Rabich and Mary Weston Says:

    Dr. McKnelly kept us both going for many years with his skill, kindness and compassion, as well as drugs, and we will miss our yearly visits with him. Please accept our sympathy for your loss.

  43. Tom - father of patient Says:

    Please accept my sincere condolences on the Death of Dr. McKnelly. Dr. McKnelly was a true gift. He was so insightful and compassionate. I honestly don’t know what would have happened to my son if we had not been fortunate enough to be referred to this wonderful man. We will miss him.

  44. Woody Hall, P.A. Says:

    I started working at the Kanas City VA in 1990. I worked on the ninth floor. The past 5 years I worked with Dr Doug Ambrose. We occasionally had lunch and Dr Mac as Dr Ambrose called him would join us. Dr Mac would bring fruit from home and share it with us. We talked about books or family. He would tell us about his daughters and what they were doing. We really enjoyed his humor and company. He was a great doctor and will be missed by all who knew him.

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