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Survivor of rare illness as baby dies

Before he was 2 months old, Rennie Knox made his mark in medicine.

Mr. Knox, 38, who died Sunday (March 23, 1997) of meningitis at Bayfront Medical Center, survived a rare operation as an infant after a tumor diagnosis by local doctors.

It required immediate attention, and he was flown to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Doctors there removed his left kidney, his spleen and an adrenal tumor. At the time, specialists said they had seen the condition in children 2 or 3 years old, but it had never before been diagnosed in an infant, said news accounts of the day in the Washington Post.

"We've seen malignant tumors something like this in young children," a surgeon told the newspaper. "But this was benign. I couldn't find a case like this in the medical books."

After the 3{-hour operation by a team of five surgeons, young Rennie rapidly regained the weight he had lost and was headed for a normal childhood, his family said. But the removal of his spleen ultimately contributed to his death Sunday.

He grew up to become a muscular young man who lifted weights and jogged for fun and made an arduous living by building sea walls.

The scar that he bore became the subject of a joke. It was, he said, "where the shark got him," his sister, Virginia McCutcheon, recalled Monday.

"He never let it keep him from doing anything," she said. "If anything, it may have spurred him on."

On Feb. 26, Mr. Knox, a fourth-generation marine contractor, fell ill with meningitis, his sister said. With a "compromised" immune system stemming from the lack of a spleen, he was unable to fight the disease, she said. A series of strokes followed.

Renwick Carl "Rennie" Knox was born in St. Petersburg and grew up at Pass-a-Grille. His father, Renwick Edward Knox, worked as a dredging contractor on the Gandy Bridge approaches and the Snell Isle development. His mother, Lois Jean Knox, died when he was 10.

He attended Boca Ciega High School and was a 1977 graduate of Pinellas Marine Institute, Pass-a-Grille. Since 1991, Mr. Knox, who held a state-certified marine contractors license, had owned and operated General Marine Construction Inc.

He was a member of Pass-a-Grille Yacht Club and was an avid fisherman and NASCAR fan.

Survivors include his wife of 10 years, Nicholette K. "Niki"; a son, Renwick M., a daughter, Mandy Jean Knox, and a sister, Virginia Knox McCutcheon, all of St. Petersburg.

A memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, 8451 Blind Pass Road, St. Pete Beach. E. Dale Gunter Funeral Home & Cremation Services, St. Petersburg, is in charge of arrangements.

_ Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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