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PITTSBURGH - Mary Alice “Molly” Knox, 66, of the South Side of Pittsburgh passed away Sunday, April 27, 2014, following a long struggle with fibromyalgia and other chronic pain.

Born in Youngstown to John Adair Knox and Alice Butlin Knox, Molly graduated from Mathews High School in Vienna and then earned both a BA and an MA degree from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. As part of her Master’s program, she spent a life-changing year teaching in a Cleveland inner-city high school.

Molly’s life of service to others began with her high school and church involvements as a teenager. It blossomed when she and a group of Allegheny friends collaborated with Meadville community members to launch a social services center for disadvantaged families. What began as Unity Center in 1971, built with volunteer labor and donations, converting an abandoned house on the edge of town, became Unity Institute, a recognized exemplar of effective nonprofit, community-based, comprehensive services, countering the effects of discrimination, poverty, and neglect. Molly led the conversion of an old high school into the very visible Unity Institute building downtown.

Molly was a co-founder of Meadville’s Women’s Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization that operates a shelter and services for abused women and children. During this time, even as she spent long days at the Unity Institute, Molly lived in the midst of the renovation of a nineteenth century brick schoolhouse that became her stunning Meadville residence.

Following a move to Pittsburgh, Molly joined the staff of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) in 1984, first as Education Director and then as Executive Director. Following her passion for civil rights and women’s empowerment, she led PAAR through a period of dramatic growth and forged linkages with wider efforts for justice and healing, including Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and local women’s shelters. She was a visible and passionate voice for addressing the threats of sexual violence and for healing its effects with counseling and other supportive services. Under Molly’s leadership, PAAR moved to a landmark renovated former church on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

Molly’s personal struggle with chronic pain, which had arisen from multiple health problems, finally made it difficult to continue a rigorous work schedule. She received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, when that diagnosis was still rare. After leaving PAAR, she became a loving and supportive member of a community of Pittsburgh people seeking to mitigate chronic pain conditions. A lively focus of this activity was her pool exercise group at Club One in East Liberty, Pa., where she was considered one of the Mermaids.

Molly was predeceased by her parents and is survived by her brother, John A. Knox of San Francisco.

Services in celebration of Molly’s life are being planned for both Meadville and Pittsburgh. Visit for details.

Donations in Molly’s name can be made to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh or to Women’s Services Inc. in Meadville.

Professional services by D’Alessandro Funeral Home & Crematory Ltd., Lawrenceville.

Guestbook Entries

“Molly and I met in grade school and she became a significant part of my life. I am saddened to hear of her death, and I will remember her always. ”

 » Janet Lynn on May 11, 2014

“I met Molly when Fowler and Vienna became Mathews. I remember her well. She will be missed. Kathy (Goodhart) Mizicko ”

 » on May 11, 2014


“Memorial services will be held at 2 pm on June 7th at Unitarian Universalist Church in Meadville PA and at 2 pm on June 8th at East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. Your participation is most welcome.”

 » John A. Knox on May 16, 2014

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