BREWER – Vitauts “Vits” J. Knuble, 67, passed away April 8, 2012, at Togus Veterans Hospital, Augusta. Vits was a successful artist and a highly decorated former Green Beret who served in the Vietnam War. He was born June 15, 1944, to Julianna Knuble, in German-occupied Riga, Latvia.

Months later, on the eve of the Russian invasion, Vits, his older brother, Aivars; mother and grandmother escaped Latvia via a refugee boat across the perilous Baltic Sea to Hamburg, Germany. In Hamburg, the family survived months of air raids by the Allied Forces prior to the German surrender. Vits and his family spent the next five years as displaced peoples in British-controlled Lubec, Germany, before immigrating to the U.S. in 1950. They were settled in Bangor where they were sponsored by the Lutheran Church and the Ivars family of Brewer. Both Vits and his brother’s childhoods centered around the Bangor YMCA, where they excelled in swimming and basketball. Under the tutelage of John Coombs, Vits became a star swimmer, lettering at Bangor High School before graduating in 1963. Vits would later coach the YMCA swim team from 1968 to 1970 and would stay involved with the Y for the rest of his life. In addition to sports, Vits played guitar in several high school bands and began his nascent art career in junior high school, selling skilled illustrations of Elvis to other students. After high school, Vits entered the U.S. Army where he became a member of the 82nd Airborne, before volunteering for Special Forces where he completed the SCUBA course, CBR training, became a jump master, and completed a year of Special Forces medical training. In 1967, Vits was deployed to the Vietnam War as a member and medical specialist for the 5th Special Forces Group A-233 “A-Team” and later A-236. Vits was also attached to SOG and became an honorary member and “medicine man” of Vietnam’s Montagnards tribe. Vits saw heavy combat in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and was wounded multiple times before completing his tour highly decorated. In 1968, Vits returned to Maine where he attended the University of Maine, graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He was a member of Kappa Sigma, a Dean’s List student and earned his commission as the commanding officer of the First Maine Cadet’s Brigade. Vits married longtime love and fellow UMaine student, Mary Anne Day of Brewer, Nov. 11, 1972. Vits spent the next 12 years on active duty beginning with the 75th Rangers out of Fort Lewis, Wash. Other assignments included company commander of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group and as an instructor for the Special Forces qualifying course under the command of the JFK Institute for Military Assistance, Fort Bragg, N.C. During this time, he was also stationed in Germany, completed the infamous Navy SEALS UDT/BUDS course, and was engaged in special operations in Central America, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. In 1984, Vits and Mary Anne moved back to Maine with their two sons, Eric and Joseph, where Vits joined the Army Reserves for three years as a Special Forces instructor, frequently on assignment in Fort Huachuca, Ariz. He retired from the Army in 1987 as a major. For the remainder of his life Vits worked as a full-time artist creating a body of work that reflected his love of nature and for Maine. He became nationally recognized as a master of the art of painting in the tradition of American Realism. His works are widely collected with pieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection. Vits was also a highly successful portrait artist and was a member of The American Portrait Society, a charter member of the Portrait Institute of New York at Carnegie Hall, and a signature member of the Philadelphia Watercolor Society. His watercolors sold at galleries around the country and he completed many commissioned portraits for a diverse roster of clientele that included Stephen King, John McKernan, and The University Club of Washington, D.C. Deeply affected by the loss of Mary Anne to breast cancer in 1998, Vits made numerous donations to various breast cancer charities. His charitable and volunteer work also extended to support of the YMCA, St. Joseph Hospital, the University of Maine Hockey program, veterans’ charities, Little League baseball and various youth programs. In between painting, Vits enjoyed fishing, playing guitar, running, golf, giving art classes, and continued competitive master’s swimming where he won several ribbons in his age group throughout the years. He was also a voracious reader, a lively debater and a master of informing others of their shortcomings. Vits was known for his legendary sense of humor, his love of family and friends, and selflessness. Vits did not suffer fools gladly, however his well-known imposing presence and gruff exterior belied a deeply generous and insightful nature which endeared him to many.

In addition to his parents and Mary Anne, Vits was predeceased by his brother, Aivars. He is survived by his two sons, Eric Knuble of New York City and Joseph Knuble of Washington, D.C.; and his nephews, Mike Knuble of Virginia and Stephen Knuble of Alabama.

Relatives and friends are welcome to call 6-8 p.m. Friday, April 27, at Brookings-Smith, 133 Center St., Bangor, where a funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, April 28, with Fritz Homans officiating. A reception will be afterward at the Family Reception Center of Brookings-Smith, 163 Center St., Bangor. Interment will be noon Monday, April 30, at Maine Veterans Cemetery, Augusta. Those who wish may make donations in Vits’ name to the Bangor Y through their website at or by mail to Bangor Y, 17 Second St., Bangor, ME 04401. Condolences to the family may be expressed at

“De Oppresso Liber”