Oral History Project:
Autobiographical Stories of Women From Chandler as Told to CGCC Students in partnership with Chandler Museum's Public History Program
Oral History of Barbara J.Gaddis Knox  
Written by: Kimberly Bogle and Jen Calahan

Barbara J.Gaddis Knox Interviewed by Kimberly Bogle and Jen Calahan On October 7, 2004

On April 27, 1933, the Gaddis and Dennis families welcomed Barbara Jean Gaddis into the world. Barbara was born in Ball Hospital, which was located in Delaware County of Muncie, Indiana, the same city where her mother was born in 1907. Her parents, Hazel and Gail Gaddis were proud parents of a beautiful, healthy baby girl, their first child.

Both of Barbara’s parents were teachers. Hazel Lillian Dennis Gaddis was the daughter of Jane (Jennie) Woollard and George Prentice Dennis. The Dennis family were Quakers, and they came to New Jersey in the 1650. They gradually migrated westward, arriving in Indiana in 1822. Gail Thomas Gaddis was the son of Gertha (Gertie) Howell and Levi (Lee) Leander Gaddis; he was the middle child of fifteen children. Gail Thomas Gaddis grew up on his parents’ farm near Huntsville, Randolph County, Indiana. He decided to further his education after high school and attended college. He enrolled at Ball State Teacher’s College where he eventually met Hazel who was also a student there. After both graduating college in 1929, Gail and Hazel became teachers and continued to date. Upon graduation, Hazel moved to Dunkirk, Indiana and taught business classes at the high school while Gail taught Industrial Arts at Blaine Junior High School in Muncie. In 1931 the two decided to get married, which meant that Hazel could no longer teach because it was against the law for females to teach if they were married. Since she could not continue teaching, she began working as a secretary for the Ball Brothers' Glass Jar Company in Muncie. She gave birth to Barbara in 1933, then Barbara’s brother Tom (Gail Thomas Gaddis II) in 1937. Hazel returned to work at Ball Brothers until 1941; Gail continued to teach junior high. World War II began with many teachers going to war, and laws against married female teachers were repealed. Hazel was able to pursue teaching because it was what she loved to do. She returned to Losantville School, a typical farm community school of one hundred fifty students serving first-twelfth grades.

Because of her mother’s asthma, Barbara’s family decided to leave their home in Muncie, Indiana, and move to a more suitable place. Based on doctors' recommendations, the family decided that Phoenix, Arizona would be a great place to call home, and they moved in 1947. After only a year, the family moved to the small farming community of Chandler, Arizona, because Barbara’s father had been offered a job to teach Industrial Arts at Chandler High School. He continued to teach there until he retired in 1973. Barbara’s mother began to teach at Gilbert High School since there was a law against husbands and wives teaching in the same school district. Later Hazel taught English and Business at Arizona State Teacher's College and Phoenix Union High School until her death in 1960 due to cancer. Mr. Gaddis married Verda Hamilton, and died in 1980.

When the family first moved to Arizona, Barbara attended North Phoenix Union High School; she began to attend Chandler High School when her family moved from Phoenix to Chandler. Barbara loved the teachers (especially Mrs. Daly) and all the programs that were offered. She was a Girls’ Stater, trumpet player, band officer and also participated in drama and speech. Barbara graduated from high school in 1951 as an Honor Graduate with sixty in her class. As a teenager Barbara was also very active in her community and the Chandler United Methodist Church. She participated in Y-Teens and served as the Maricopa County Y-Teens president.

Barbara attended Colorado Women’s College in Denver. She received an Associate in Arts degree in 1953. She was named one of their three outstanding graduates. While attending the school she was in drama, chorus, orchestra, president of both the school’s writing club and the school’s activities organization, riding club, ski club, and elected to the school leadership honorary Delta Tau Kappa. She then transferred to the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1953. There she became a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, ski club and associated women’s students organization. She graduated in 1954 with a degree in Elementary Education.

When the Gaddis family moved to Chandler, the first family they met were the Orval Knox Family, a long-time farming family in Chandler. During Barbara’s senior year in high school she began dating Norman Knox, her future husband. During her time in college she continued to date Norman although they lived in different states; she was in Colorado and he was in California. She was pinned Christmas of her junior year of college and received an engagement ring before the beginning of her senior year. Norman and Barbara’s wedding took place June 21, 1955, the first wedding at Mesa First Methodist Church.

After college Barbara taught elementary school and music classes at the school on Williams Air Force Base. She quit after only two years of teaching because she wanted to have a family. Norman and Barbara welcomed their first son, Lyle Alan in October of 1957. Their second son Alexander Gaddis Knox was born in February of 1965. Barbara happily became a stay at home mother, involved in the community, schools, church, charitable causes, and taking care of teh family farm books.

In the midst of raising two sons she also became a busy clubwoman. Barbara became involved the Chandler Junior Women’s Club immediately after she leaving her teaching job, where she served as officers and president. She continued to be a school worker and supporter of the Chandler Unified School District. She was President of P.T.A and was honored with a lifetime membership in the National P.T.A at the end of her term. She also was involved in the YMCA, where she was on the Board of Directors, the Kappa Alumni Association, Chandler Women’s Club, PEO, Chandler Junior High Booster Club and Chandler High School Booster Club in which she edited the parent newsletter, Chandler School District Governing Board and is still a life member of the Chandler Service Club. Another club Barbara participated in which was very dear to her was the Cancer Society, which meant a lot to her because her mother died of cervical cancer five years after she was married. She was named Arizona Clubwoman of the Year in 1963. The Chandler Chamber of Commerce recognized Barbara’s efforts in 1973 when she received the Female Leadership Award. She was elected to the Governing Board of the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) in 1983, and in 1992, she was named Arizona School Board Member of the Year. She continues her involvement in the schools as teh Administrative Director of School Employees Benefit Trust, which supervises the Benefit Plans for five school districts including Chandler. “From my earliest memories, the words and deeds of my family demonstrated their convictions in assuming responsible action for one’s beliefs. I was taught that any talents we possess are gifts from God and that he expects us to use the abilities He has provided. My parents truly believed the words of Burke,“…All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing…”” –Barbara Gaddis Knox

Photos courtesy of the family.

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