Susan H. Knedler

Wednesday, September 1, 2021
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Susan Harriett Knedler, 74, of Lewistown, Montana passed away on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021 as a result of her long-term fight with cancer, with her close friends by her side at Sweetwater Retirement Center of Billings.

She was born June 18, 1947 to Anna (Manley) Knedler and Lee (Bud) Knedler of Geraldine. She was preceded in death by her parents, Bud and Ann Knedler, and her husband and life companion Charlie Guinn. Susan is survived by sisters, Nancy Steel, Peggy Knedler (Tom Eckblad); niece, Kate Hutchinson (Danny); grandniece, Penelope; many cousins and great cousins and the hundreds of employees that have passed through the doors of Hi-Heat Industries. Of this cast of characters in Susan’s cherished persons, Steve Phillips is the one she loved and trusted above all else. In her final days, Susan stated with such intensity that Steve made her SAFE in all aspects of life. What a blessing they were in one another’s lives.

As most of us know well, Susan was (and always will be) the consummate gardener. Oh, how she loved her greenhouses and flowers. During her final months, Susan asked her close friend and mentor Wendy Samson to record her thoughts regarding her “bouquet of friends.” This became her most important gardening project of all time. Susan thoughtfully named people in her final days and then she determined what flower or plant they represented to her down to their very color. As Susan moved closer and closer to joining Charlie, it was truly beautiful to see the joy this creative gardening project brought to Susan.

Susan had an interesting career path. She grew up and attended school in Geraldine. After graduating from Montana State University with a political science degree, she began her career in Washington, D.C., working as an aide at Educational Television Stations. Next, she worked as a Public Television camera woman. Susan joined Commodity News Service as a regional sales manager, selling news wires and constant quote computers to commodity brokers and private speculators in six midwestern states. Later she served in the customer service department, acting as the liaison between customers and all company departments. From there her career path lead her into teaching Evelyn Woods Reading Dynamics where she developed her desire to help people achieve their potential. Although she was teaching speed reading, she was giving students a tool to learn how to think. As Susan became an accomplished speed reader, she was able to capitalize on her personal love of learning primarily through reading. Her pursuit of business management knowledge helped her develop her ideas. Through books she expanded her personal and business visions.

In 1981, Susan and Charlie started Hi-Heat Industries in Kansas City. After a trip back to Montana in 1989, they started dreaming about moving back to Susan’s home state, Montana. Although they knew the move would be disruptive to their business, they wanted a different quality of life. They also realized they could have a more committed workforce in a community where people knew each other as well as the good work ethic that comes with rural communities. Susan mentored many employees at Hi-Heat. In other words, Susan’s philosophy was to grow people. In this mission to grow people Susan looked within Hi-Heat to promote from within when possible and train the person into the position. In this she challenged everyone to reach for a higher level of potential. To facilitate employee growth and development, Susan dedicated a percentage of the Hi-Heat annual budget for training expenses. Susan also mentored people in her personal life as well; an example is Kate, her niece. Susan followed Kate’s growth path her entire life right up to the end. She often talked about Kate as most people would talk about their own children. Kate was very important in Susan’s life.

Susan freely shared her time and passion with her involvement within the state. She was a member of the Montana Chamber of Commerce for over 25 years, and a board member for 10 years including one year as the chair. She was one of the original members of the statewide health insurance group, Chamber Choices, which started a program joining smaller companies together to buy as a group to get better employee health insurance rates and more complete insurance coverage at a time when few choices were available. As a small business employer, Susan thought it was important for her company, and other Montana companies, to be able to provide affordable health insurance for employees.

In Susan’s vision and support of the Lewistown community, she served for 17 years on the Lewistown JSEC (State of Montana’s Job Service Employers’ Committee). JSEC worked to help local businesses concentrate on employee development. With Susan’s influence, JSEC brought speakers and trainers into the rural community to help companies implement employee engagement programs and to consciously develop a positive culture for their companies. Susan, through Hi-Heat, was a contributor to local community capital improvements such as the swimming pool, ice skating rink and the state-of-the-art emergency room facilities at the local hospital. She also contributed to the endless fundraising activities of Hi-Heat’s employees’ communities. She enjoyed visiting with the kids doing fundraising to find out why they were doing fundraising and what they planned to do. She was also a big advocate for buying locally to support the community as well. While at work, Susan’s community vision included encouraging Hi-Heat to offer shop tours for teens and adults as it was also an important part of giving back to the community. She liked to get people thinking early in their life that manufacturing can be a clean and meaningful career.

Funeral Services for Susan will be held at the Creel Funeral Home Chapel on Friday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. Interment will be Friday, 3:30 p.m. at the Geraldine Cemetery. Memorial donations are requested to SAFE (Saving Animals from Euthanasia), 1011 6th Ave. N., Lewistown, MT 59457 or any of our local 4-H chapters.

Arrangements are under the care of Creel Funeral Home. Susan’s family and friends can share memories and condolences at www.creelfuneralhome.com.

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