Kyle James Knox was born in Stouffville, Ont., on Nov. 12, 1986, to Kent and Sherry Knox, the first of three children. His father owned Knox Insulation and Roofing, a family business that Kyle’s grandfather began in 1974. His mother ran the household, raising the three children, including Kendall, born in 1988, and Hanna, born in 1990.
As a toddler, Kyle would get his mother to tie his old rocking-horse patterned baby blanket around his shoulders as a cape. Wearing a Batman T-shirt, he would then zigzag around the house, calling himself Kyle “Batman” Knox. Outside, he liked to create make-believe construction sites in a green turtle-shaped sandbox, warning his sisters not to mess up his sand piles. They didn’t. They preferred to follow, rather than antagonize, their brother. “Everything he did was fun, so we wanted to do it, too,” says Kendall, who chose hockey over ballet when she was four, in order to be with her brother.
Growing up on Musselman’s Lake, the kids spent much of their time in the water with neighbourhood friends and cousins. In the summer they swam and fished; in the winter they skated and played hockey. Kyle also spent time tinkering in the shed, where he had his own workbench and tools. He would often join his father on jobs, soaking up his hands-on expertise. When he was 12, his parents bought him his first BMX bike—before he rode it, he took it completely apart. “He wanted to ‘soup it up,’ he said, so it would ride better,” Kendall recalls. “He was always trying to make things faster and stronger.” It was around this time that the kids got into motorized sports.
Up at Sherry’s family cottage, in Harcourt Park Marina near Haliburton, Kyle and his sisters rode dirt bikes, four-wheelers and snowmobiles—he dreamed about competing on the snocross circuit (essentially, motocross on snowmobiles). “He was all over the place,” says Sherry, “trying to do jumps and to ride on one ski. And he went way too fast.” He would slow down, though, to teach his younger cousins all about the outdoor sports he loved, and to learn more about building and fixing things from the mechanic at Harcourt and from his grandfather, Jim. When Kyle entered high school, it was in shop class, especially woodworking, that he shone; he made bowls, shelves and end tables. In Grade 12, he built a rolltop desk. He also became a teaching assistant to the Grade 9 class; his sister, Hanna, was among his students. “He took a lot of pride in what he made; he didn’t settle. Everything had to be perfect,” she says.
After he graduated, the coach of Kendall’s hockey team offered Kyle a crane operator apprenticeship, which he accepted. He would come home from work and tell stories about his day, using cups and coasters to show how the machines moved. On one job, he saved a man from having his head crushed by a heavy machine. After that, he became more safety conscious.
In March 2006, Kyle went to one of Kendall’s hockey games—it was there that he and 17-year-old Nicole Love first saw each other. “I know this sounds totally lame,” says Nicole, whose sister played on Kendall’s team, “but it really was love at first sight.” After the game, Kyle and Nicole got their sisters to chat through MSN, checking to see if the one liked the other. Slowly they began to talk, and two months later the pair started dating.
Kyle proved to be a serious romantic. “He would give me roses on our monthly anniversaries: one rose for our one-month, two for our two-month, all the way up to a year,” Nicole says. One night, he stayed up until 5 a.m. building her a box to hold one of her university graphic design projects, though he had to be at work before 7:00. When he finally made it to snocross, he chose 505 as his number, after the couple’s May 5 anniversary. Shortly after, Kendall and Hanna started competing too, racing under the numbers 506 and 506-X.
Having completed his apprenticeship training at the beginning of this October, Kyle asked Kendall to help him pick out an engagement ring for Nicole. While preparing to write the exam to become a fully licensed crane operator, he began a job at Nicole’s old school, York University, where a future subway line is under construction. On Oct. 11, Kyle was operating a front-end loader when a drilling rig from another company toppled over, injuring five and killing one. That night, his family and Nicole received the news that it was Kyle who had died. He was 24.