Valley College mourns the passing of Tim Knappen

Valley College has lost a former track star and dedicated member of its athletic department  with the passing of Tim Knappen.

By Lonnie Dominguez, Staff Writer

Tim Knappen, staff member, and LAVC Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, best known for his impressive athletic accomplishments and daredevil antics, passed away this Saturday after a 15 year battle with Parkinson’s disease.   

The former track star known as “Snake” to some, “Crazy Tim” to others, had been an inspiration for those around him both on and off the field for his can-do attitude, even in the face of adversity.

Knappen first grabbed attention in 1967 as a track and field star for Grant High School,  winning in pole vault and high jump. Then in 1968 he came to Valley and joined its track and field team.

In 1970 he made local news by earning the record in decathlon, which still stands; and gaining numerous victories in track and field; all after a bout of pneumonia bronchitis the previous season.

His athletic abilities earned him a scholarship to Arizona State University, but an achilles injury ended his track career early but this would not keep him from breaking two Guinness Book of World Records in 1974.

Knappen returned to the San Fernando Valley and coached track at several high schools, including Grant and would eventually come back to Valley, which he considered his home, to help coach its track team.  

But for as much as he was known for his accomplishments in track and field, Knappen was also known for his daring feats and oddball behavior. On around a dozen occasions, Knappen climbed the light tower above the LAVC football field press box and gave out a Tarzan yell while doing handstands. One time doing so in nothing more than a loin cloth; disrupting a Grant High School graduation ceremony.

In 2002, Knappen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease which did not stop him from his weekly exercise routines and competing in amateur athletic events and in 2012 he was inducted into the LAVC Athletic Hall of Fame.

Knappen passed away at his home in Van Nuys. His funeral arrangements are  pending at this time.

Adviser | The Valley Star



  1. I knew Tim in the 60s wn he came to my house alot with my brother .I competed with his brother casey, ,my age n atheletics.
    .I won. : D..
    I just wish i could of talked to tim.
    .My friend Bruce Kraut has many years of parkinsons..but chants
    NamMyoho Renge Kyo..and lives with joy with his wife Karen..♡♡

  2. I knew tim in the 60s .He came to my house alot w my brother. I competed with his brother casey , my age , in athletics.. I won..:D..!!..I wish i could of talked to tim .My friend Bruce Kraut has parkinsons..
    but chants Nam Myoho Renge Kyo every day.. and lives with joy with his wife karen.

  3. Tim Knappen was a champion in every way.

    I was fortunate, we talked for an hour just two weeks ago, he had been remembering my father driving us around the valley looking for a pit for us to practice pole vault jump in. It was an honor. Tim was so dedicated as we have never seen. Truly a beautiful, kind, giving spirit.

    Jeff Piro

  4. I was a North Hollywood High pole vaulter and my dad and I knew Tim. We would go practice on the Valley College field and Tim would help my dad coach me. Although most of the time he was a funny and playful guy, he had an intense competitor spirit when needed. I’m sure he scared the heck out of the other teams.

    He also had a Daredevil aspect that was like Jack A** but way before. You mentioned the light stands but it’s hard to visualize just how high those things were. He used to also go out to Malibu Canyon Road and climb up above the traffic and write his other name “Zuma Tim” above the entrance to the tunnel. Then he told me about holding a record somewhere for sustaining the most rotations in a commercial dryer and another incident where he was being pulled by a rope, attached to a car and riding a skateboard. Not sure how fast he finally went but the legends had it at 50+ miles an hour. The guy was fearless!

    They don’t make them like that anymore and his koss makes the world a little sadder place.

  5. I would like to thank the editor and the advisor of the Valley Star for commissioning the release of this article, as well as the person who wrote this article on the one and only Tim Knappen.

    Knappen would have been proud of this article.

    Man, Tim Knappen was a VERY good-looking guy in his youth. If he would have grown up in the Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram age I could just imagine how many female followers he would have had in the East San Fernando Valley.

    Anyways, I got to know him about four years ago as I used to visit the South Gym fitness center by myself and sometimes with Dale Beck.

    I also got to see him at basketball games during these past few years too.

    Even though he was stricken with Parkinson’s, it never affected his knowledge of track and field. He was always available to talk about that sport and he was heartbroken that the sport was axed from the athletic department at LAVC not too long ago.

    Two times I sat in one of the rooms in the South Gym talking to Tim for hours about track and field, football, the television industry and some other stuff.

    One of the things I always liked about Tim was that he never felt sorry for himself that Parkinson’s struck him. He just lived his life, was nice to everyone, and minded his own business.

    RIP Tim Knappen (1950-2017)

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