The tiny village of Knollwood, situated just north of Sherman on Farm Road 131, experienced a major loss with the death of village patriarch Elroy "Gene" Roelke earlier this week. Mr. Roelke was 83 years old.

The tiny village of Knollwood, situated just north of Sherman on Farm Road 131, experienced a major loss with the death of village patriarch Elroy "Gene" Roelke earlier this week. Mr. Roelke was 83 years old.


A lawyer by trade, Mr. Roelke came to public attention in the mid 1980s when he was instrumental in the incorporation of Knollwood and the development of the small village since. Mr. Roelke was a major player in Knollwood’s vote to allow the sale of the alcohol in Knollwood, making it the first city in Grayson County to allow alcohol sales.


"He created (Knollwood) totally by accident," said Thomas Roelke, son of Mr. Roelke.


Knollwood originated in the 1960s as a mobile home park, created by developers Bill King and Bill Bowen of Dallas. Mr. Roelke, an employee of King and Bowen at the time, eventually purchased the park from them in the mid 1970s.


For several years after his acquisition of the park, Mr. Roelke fought to reduce the water rates the community was charged by the city of Sherman. At the time, Sherman charged double the rate for areas outside city limits.


"It was a burden on everyone," said Amy Kerlin, Mr. Roelke’s daughter. In the years since, the addition of Lake Texoma water to the Sherman water system has allowed the city to reduce its rates.


Roelke petitioned the city of Sherman multiple times for annexation, hoping to reduce the water rate, but was denied each time. It was his third attempt to push annexation that allowed Mr. Roelke to formally incorporate. Texas statute at the time allowed for incorporation after a recognized development has been denied annexation three times, said Richard Roelke, son of Mr. Roelke and current mayor of Knollwood. And with Mr. Roelke’s third petition, the village of Knollwood was born.


In 1983, residents of the community voted 29 to 16 in favor of incorporation. The village of Knollwood incorporated 0.3 square miles surrounding the mobile home park and pre-fabricated home community.


The village came to attention again in 1985 after the city held a vote to allow for "open saloon" status, which would allow for open bars for alcoholic beverages, as opposed to private clubs which were the norm at the time. The measure lost in a vote of 32-28. Only two months later, a second vote allowed for the sale of bottled beer and wine in the city and off-premise consumption, which led to the opening of a convenience store, managed by the Roelke family, within the village. In 1986, the city held a second vote on "open saloon" status, which passed.


Since the second saloon vote, the Library Grill opened for business in the village, making it and the convenience store the main income for the village.


Mr. Roelke, who never served in an elected position within Knollwood, served as the village’s attorney from 1983 until his death. He is credited with helping Knollwood receive grants for water and sewer line projects and road grants.


Kerlin said the respect for Mr. Roelke within Knollwood was palpable. "He just really reached out and cared for everyone," she said.