Emile “Knute” Pourroy, a former member of the Santa Clarita Valley Search & Rescue Team, died Oct. 27 at the age of 61 after a two-and-a-half-year battle with brain cancer.
Pourroy served as a volunteer reserve deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for 27 years, serving many of those years in leadership positions on the SAR team, both as lieutenant and captain.
“He was a great guy and super nice,” said Tony Buttitta, lieutenant of the SAR team. “For someone to give 27 years of their life volunteering is incredible. It takes a special person to want to give that back.”
In addition to a number of hours spent training, SAR team volunteers spend anywhere between 20 to 60 hours each month responding to calls in which they assist with searching for missing persons, lost hikers or in rescues.
When Buttitta joined the team, Pourroy was one of the ones who helped train him. “He was very willing to help and teach, and he was always the guy you go to (with questions).”
Pourroy met his wife, Suzanne Towry Pourroy, through the Sheriff’s Department, as she was also a reserve deputy on the SAR team for 17 years.
“I always used to say that he was quietly in control,” she said, adding that he was very humble. “There was once where he was supposed to get an award from the Sheriff’s Department, but instead he made sure another team member got it.”
Pourroy was also known for always being conscientious and concerned for the safety of his team. “He would always follow up the rear and make sure he was the last one off the mountain.”
Early on during his time on the team, Pourroy survived a 100-foot fall off a cliff after a malfunction with his equipment.
“He took a tumble, bouncing off of a teammate and landing on his feet,” Suzanne said. “I remember him telling me as he was falling he thought, ‘This is it. I’m at peace. I’m going to be OK.’ I think that’s when he realized there are some things that you just can’t control.”
Though not every rescue was easy, Pourroy continued to find inspiration in the strength of the families of the victims. “‘We do it for the family,’ he would say.”
He was always willing to give up his time to help out, and volunteering remained an extremely important part of his life over the years.
In his professional career, Pourroy was an electrician who worked in the industry for more than 35 years and co-owned an electrical contracting business.
He spent much of his free time with his four children, volunteering with their Scout troops or as a facilitator for their confirmation program at church.
When he was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2017, Pourroy fought as hard as he could.
“He faced it head-on, did the best he could and never ever complained,” Suzanne said. “He still always joked and smiled with everyone … He had this way of making an impact on people — it was amazing.”
When Pourroy finally decided to end treatment, he brought everyone on his medical team to tears, she added.
“I’m so grateful that he was in my life,” she said.
As the SAR team was such an important part of Pourroy’s life, in lieu of flowers, the family asks anyone to send donations to Santa Clarita Valley Search and Rescue, at P.O. Box 5955 in Sherman Oaks.