Farragut lost a true friend recently when Dr. Michael Karnitz passed away.
The long-time overseer and caretaker of Pleasant Forest Cemetery in Town died Saturday, April 13, in University of Tennessee Medical Center following a long cancer battle. He was 79.
Although Mike was born in Muskegon, Michigan, he had called East Tennessee — and specifically the Farragut community — home for nearly five decades. “He was a very special friend and mentor to me,” said Dave Stinton, who not only volunteered alongside Mike at Pleasant Forest, but also worked with him for a number of years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
“He was just a really great guy.”
Mike, who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University, worked for 31 years in the Energy Division of ORNL.
“Mike was such an outgoing person,” Stinton added. “He knew so many people, and he came up with all sorts of things for the Town of Farragut, specifically where he saw the need.”
For example, when Mike realized the cemetery needed more room, he worked with Farragut businessman Noah Myers, who owned adjacent land. “He talked to Noah and made an arrangement to exchange the land for plots,” Stinton said. “It probably added about 400 grave sites.”
Mike, who volunteered at Pleasant Forest for more than 20 years, also made arrangements to obtain another plot of land, at the intersection of Concord Road and South Campbell Station Road, which added about 250 plots to the cemetery, his friend recalled.
Later, when Mike saw more people were choosing cremation as an option, “he had an idea to add columbarium’s at the cemetery,” Stinton added, noting Mike worked with others on the actual design, which, when completed, tied in with the already present flagpole as well as the prominent marker for Archibald Roane.
“He also wanted to make sure what was constructed didn’t look like new concrete. Instead, it was stamped concrete and looked like it was old, and fit in better with the surroundings. It added 168 spaces, and the design included an expansion.”
Mike also volunteered with Farragut Museum and was instrumental in having the Admiral Farragut statue located at what is now Town Hall Plaza, along with securing the loan of two U.S. Naval cannons now located along the plaza grounds.
Sue Stuhl, former Town Park and Recreation director, worked with Mike in several capacities.
“Mike was a great volunteer for both the Town as part of the museum volunteer force and for Pleasant Forest Cemetery,” she said. “In the past couple of years, I had the wonderful experience of working with Mike on the signage at the cemetery for the Farragut History Walk.
“And, he was extremely helpful in the coordination of the living history event we had a few years ago in the cemetery. He was so knowledgeable that it helped make the event a huge success.”
“This is just another example of Mike’s dogged determination in getting things done, whether for the community or in his professional life,” Stinton said.
In addition to his many friends, Mike is survived by his wife, Dolly, to whom he was married 57 years; a son, Steve Karnitz; a daughter and son-in-law, Sherry and Frank Bullard; three grandsons, Leo and Evan Karnitz and Luke Bullard; and several other family members.
Mike was a member of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Farragut, where services were held Saturday, April 15. The family requested in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a favorite charity in Mike’s memory.