NORTH TONAWANDA – When Karl Kindt III went to visit his father’s military grave in France 17 years ago, a statue of King Arthur inspired him to invent a new job for himself: as a storytelling knight.
After that trip, he found someone to make a suit of armor for him out of “mild steel,” a kind of iron used in medieval times. He began wearing it in parades, classrooms, churches and Scout meetings as he told fables to encourage children take a chivalrous approach to their lives.
This hobby has led mayors of 10 cities, including North Tonawanda, to “knight” him. He thinks of it as a tribute to his father, veterans and his late stepfather, John Prescott.
“He told me about my natural father who had been a soldier in World War II and was killed. He encouraged me with stories of knights and chivalry to think of my father as a knight who had gone off to battle,” said Kindt, 67. “I kind of grew up thinking of myself as a son of a knight. And so when I got be 50 years old, the idea of becoming a real knight came back to me when I went to visit my father’s grave in France.”
For the last eight years, Kindt, who now lives in St. Louis, has been including North Tonawanda, Lockport and Niagara County on his knightly route. A former pastor at Union Road Community Church in Cheektowaga, he is making plans now for a local visit to schools and libraries sometime in the spring or summer.
What do you do for a full-time living?
I work for a law firm as a media technologist. I go into court with attorneys and help them make sure the Power Points work.
Then I teach at a university, too, part time. Webster University. I teach 3-D photography. I do workshops, too, for children to teach them how to do it. Workshops I’ve done in libraries have been sold out. It looks like everyone wants to do 3-D nowadays.
What can you tell me about your father?
My dad’s name is on the memorial wall in front of City Hall in North Tonawanda. Karl Martin Kindt II. He had just graduated from Lockport High School in 1942. He was drafted into the Army in 1943. He was a radio operator for the anti-aircraft guns on Long Island for a while. But then he was sent over to fight against the Nazis in Germany in 1944. He was killed on April 12th of 1945. Twenty years old.
And your mother?
She gave birth to me in July of that year.
Did she have a career?
Just in the home. Marjorie. Howard was her maiden name. When I was small I asked about him. My mother gave me a letter that my dad had written to me. He knew I was on the way. It was addressed to the “New One.”
What does it say?
In the letter, basically, he says, “Your mother and I have prayed for you and your future and development.” Then he concludes that if he should fail to return, it would be a great honor to give his life for the peace and security of me and my mother.
Your stepfather was a friend of your father’s?
They had played football together. Sandlot football. My stepdad went to North Tonawanda High. My stepdad, he worked for New York Telephone all his life. He was a lineman and installer.
Do you have a family?
I’ve been married to my wife, Margie, for 46 years. She’s a writer. She was asked to read one of her stories on the airwaves in New York City, and it was titled “Prairie Fire.” It’s a memoir of her father standing watching their home burn down. NPR broadcast it. She helps me with some of my stories. I’ve got two sons who are married. Three granddaughters.
What do they think about you going around as a knight?
My granddaughters sometimes have gone with me. They have been princesses in parades. All dressed up. My wife rides with them. My son Karl, if I’m sick or something, he can substitute.
Your other son is a graphic novelist?
Matthew Kindt. A couple of his graphic novels are being scripted for movies. One of them, titled “Three Story,” is about a man who keeps on growing and doesn’t stop growing, and all the problems that he has because he gets bigger and bigger.
He’s fast on the draw, let’s put it that way. He’s always been a fast drawer even as a little boy. I guess that’s why he can make money as a graphic novelist. He’s a good storyteller, too. He was born in Cheektowaga.
Where did you get your armor?
I had to have it made. The man who made it lives in Idaho. Christian Fletcher. I sent him some photographs. He was making real suits. He’s retired from making armor. Now he just makes swords.
Does the suit need any special care?
I use a lot of WD 40.
What do you do when you have it on?
Sometimes I do guard work with police officers. Most of the time, I tell these ridiculously funny stories. They all have a wonderful moral to them.
Tell me one.
Sir Watermelon. It’s a story about a little tiny boy who has a watermelon roll over him, and it squishes his face in the mud. He gets mad and grows up to be a knight and winds up cutting everybody’s watermelons.
So the problem in the story is the little boy loses his temper … We all get mad, it just depends what you do with your “mad strength.” When you and I get mad we get full of energy, strength. The problem is, “So what do you do with all that mad strength?” So I tell the children, “Use it to pick up your room. Use it to do something good.”
I think one of things, instead of lecturing children, what you need to do is spice up your advice to them with good humor. Make the kids laugh.
You teach about bravery with another story about a baby chick who rescues a girl from a dragon while a knight hides in a tree?
You don’t get to be brave because you have big muscles, but by forgetting about yourself and thinking of others instead.
That’s the way I teach children where courage comes from. Sometimes I’ll mention that my dad, who gave his life for others, was courageous because he wasn’t thinking abut himself, he was thinking of others.
How do you come up with so many stories?
I had a really good stepdad who had a good imagination. Every night when he tucked us into bed, he would tell us ridiculous stories. It’s not hard for me to tell a story about anything.
You haven’t lived here since your were in your 20s and moved back home after college for a few years to work as a pastor?
I’ve had 37 jobs in my life. Manager of a movie theater. Gardener at the Schoellkopf Estate in Niagara Falls. I was an elevator operator in Niagara Falls, in the parks department. The business had its ups and downs. I got tired of hearing that joke.
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