Local family honors late son with random acts of kindness
Tuesday was the second anniversary of Jake Kneece's death. His family remembered him with tears and laughter. They also performed random acts of kindness all over Aiken.
“Instead of sitting around being sad, we want to go out and make the day better for other people,” said Jake's mother, Barbara. “We're doing this to help us cope and to help others. I'm going to go until I can't take another step.”
Barbara and her husband, Pace, were accompanied by their daughter, Lindsay, as they traveled the local roads in a black Lexus SUV. Lindsay had a list on a legal pad of all the places they planned to visit. They also made spur-of-the-moment decisions about where to stop and perform their selfless acts.
“Jake would like what we are doing,” said Pace, who was behind the wheel of the Lexus.
Chimed in Lindsay: “Jake was such a good person, so this is completely fitting.”
The Kneeces stopped by their church, Millbrook Baptist, and delivered a tray of cinnamon buns and other goodies to the staff. Then Barbara and Lindsay went into Books-A-Million, where they placed dollar bills in children's books.
While the family was riding around, Lindsay called the Swamp Fox restaurant and ordered lunch for the employees at Lionel Smith Ltd., a well-known men's clothing shop.
“Jake loved Van (Smith) and Smitty (Smith) and all of the guys there,” Barbara said.
There was a stop at Anchor Health & Rehab, where Barbara and Lindsay delivered two plants. They asked the receptionist to give them to a man and woman who needed cheering up.
At Chick-fil-A, the Kneeces picked up some refreshments at around 11 a.m. They also paid for the orders of the people in the two cars right behind them in the restaurant's drive-through lane. At Goodwill, they dropped off two boxes full of shoes.
“Jake was very kind to people, and he had a good heart,” Barbara said. “He loved his friends, and he loved animals. He always had a big smile on his face. The fact that he was that way was the inspiration for us to do kind things.”
As the Kneeces did their good deeds, they handed out cards with a message printed on them that said, “Please accept this random act of kindness in loving memory of Jake Kneece.” They also placed hundreds of cards with an inspirational Bible verse printed on them on cars in various parking lots.
Pace owns Aiken County Farm Supply on Park Avenue. Lindsay works there, and Jake worked there, too, before he died on Nov. 5, 2011, at the age of 27.
“He went out that night and partied, and then he went back out and partied again,” Barbara said. “When he came home, he took something that interacted (badly) with him and caused his heart to stop.”
Jake's family was devastated. Last year, as the first anniversary of his death approached, Lindsay came up with an idea to make the day brighter.
“I saw it on Pinterest,” she said. “A woman had done it for her birthday. She turned 33, and she did 33 random acts of kindness. I thought, 'I want to do that for Jake.'”
The rest of the family was gung-ho, and the Kneeces had so much fun performing random acts of kindness in 2012 that they decided to do it again this year. They promoted the day on Facebook and urged others to participate.
Using her iPhone, Barbara kept track of the many Facebook messages from numerous people who wrote that they had handed out gift cards to strangers, given friends flowers and completed other random acts of kindness in honor of Jake.
“It's an emotional day, but it's also an uplifting day,” Barbara said.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.