Richard J. Lynn, who provided riverboat cruises on the Big Muddy from Kansas City for more than three decades, died earlier this month in Florida at age 88.
Lynn was perhaps best known as captain of the Missouri River Queen, a three-deck sternwheeler that plied the river and offered dinner cruises from the foot of Grand Boulevard and then from Kaw Point.
A Kansas City native, Lynn began his life’s work on the Missouri River in 1959 and operated the Sharlyn Marina and restaurant for 10 years before it was destroyed by fire in the late 1960s.
Lynn had several boats over the years, including the Westport. He had the Missouri River Queen built in 1985 and later added the larger boat America.
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“He loved the Missouri River,” said his son Richard Lynn. “It was the most beautiful river in the world to him.”
After moving to Kaw Point, Lynn and his wife, K.C. Staley-Lynn, created a small amusement park at his dock called River City USA that included a miniature train and carousel.
“He would operate (his) boat 12 months a year,” Staley-Lynn said. “He fought ice, he fought low water, he fought high water, he fought bridges. Every day was exciting.”
After Missouri voters approved riverboat gambling, Lynn and his wife, also a river pilot, entered a bid for a cruising casino based in Parkville. They were turned down.
They sold the Missouri River Queen in 1997 and the boat left Kansas City to become the Georgia Queen, still operating in Savannah, Ga.
Lynn and his wife retired to LaBelle, Fla., where he died Oct. 1.
He graduated from Northeast High School and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II and the Air Force in the Korean War.
Lynn assisted local police and fire departments and the Coast Guard in numerous search and rescue operations on the Missouri River. He was awarded the Congressional Silver Lifesaving Medal for rescuing a suicidal woman from the river in 1979. He was a founding member of the Passenger Vessel Association.
Lynn is survived by his wife; sons Richard J. Lynn and wife Kimberly of Kansas City, David J. Lynn and wife Darlene of Seymour, Mo., and Wolfgang J. Lynn; and daughters Katherine Lynn of Lake Worth, Fla., and Charlie A. Lynn of LaBelle.