Richard Allen (Dick) Burns
Richard Allen (Dick) Burns went to his eternal rest on Friday, August 14, 2020. Dick was a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, athlete, coach, educator, businessman, neighbor, community leader, and friend to many in the Greater Kansas City area. Through hard work, discipline, perseverance and humor, and because of the kindness and guidance of mentors, Dick overcame humble beginnings and adversity to earn the respect of his peers and contribute to his community.
Dick was born February 18, 1933 in Kansas City, the oldest child of John R. Burns and Burnetta M. Schmidt. He graduated from Westport High School in 1951, where he was a class officer, was named to the All-City Interscholastic League squad and played varsity football (serving as captain of the team). Dick attended the University of Missouri, Columbia his freshman year on a football scholarship where he set a number of records. He continued his education at William Jewell College in Liberty, where he captained the William Jewell football team, leading them to two conference championships, receiving All-MCAU Conference honors. He was also captain of the track team, winning the conference championship in the javelin. At Jewell, he courted and married Karyl Zta Unruh, a former classmate at Westport, and they were married at Calvary Baptist Church in Kansas City. Dick was recognized in “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities” in 1955 and won William Jewell’s Cecil R. Martin Award as the Outstanding Athlete of 1954.
Dick enrolled in the U.S. Marine Core Officer Training Program and attended basic training in Quantico, Virginia. After graduating from William Jewell in 1956 with a degree in Physical Education and Biology, Dick and Karyl returned to Quantico for further training and Dick was later reassigned to Camp Pendleton.
He completed active duty in 1958 and returned to Kansas City where he taught biology and was an assistant football and basketball coach at Paseo High School. He remained in the reserves until 1968 when he resigned his commission at the rank of Captain. In 1958, Karyl and Dick welcomed the first of their four children. In 1960, he received a National Science Foundation Grant and completed a Master’s Degree in Science Teaching from MU. Dick accepted an offer to teach and coach at Shawnee Mission West High School and the family moved to Nall Hills in Overland Park. He also managed the Nall Hills Country Club pool where he and his wife and children happily spent their summers. Dick taught many of the neighborhood kids how to swim.
While at West, Dick taught part-time for the Metropolitan Junior College. Part-time became full-time, and from 1965 to 1969 Dick taught general biology, botany, zoology and genetics. He was selected by peers to head up a newly formed Division of Health and Life Sciences, directing activities of nine departments. In 1969, he joined Johnson County Community College and was instrumental in the creation and early development of the college, first as Assistant Dean, and then Dean of Instruction. He planned facilities and sought certification and accreditation of programs through the Kansas State Board of Education and other agencies. The new campus opened to students on a 180-acre site at College Blvd. and Quivira in the fall of 1972. After a hiatus in 1977 to work on his doctorate, Dick moved into the insurance industry and worked with Connecticut Mutual (later Mass Mutual) and Boeger Financial Group until his retirement in 1996.
Dick and Karyl were divorced in 1989 after 33 years of marriage. Dick met Carole Dugan Kuhlman at Village Presbyterian Church and the two were married in 1993. Dick became a second father to Carole’s children, while remaining close to his four children and former wife.
Dick and Carole were married for 25 years. They divorced a few years ago, remaining friends, with Carole moving to the Chicago area to be with her children, and Dick returning to the family home in Overland Park to spend the final years of his life with Karyl and daughter Debbie.
In his retirement, he especially loved working in the yard (and sometimes the neighbors’ yards – whether they liked it or not 🙂 ), and growing vegetables. We all think that heaven’s gardens will be more beautiful after his arrival.
One of the highlights of Dick’s life was participating in the Heartland Honor Flight and traveling to Washington D.C. as a retired service member. At a “mail call” on the return flight, he received letters from his children and grandchildren about what he meant to them and a “hero’s welcome” home. He joked that it was like “being present at his own funeral.”
Dick is preceded in death by his parents and sister. He is survived by his children Karyl Lynn Burns and husband James O’Neil of Ventura, CA; Meredith Kay Greenwood and husband David and sons Max (and wife Emily and daughter Daisy Laine) and Ross; Debra Ann Burns of Overland Park and son Slade of Denver, CO; Michael Allen Burns and wife Denise and children Cooper, William, Eston and Zta Kate of Ringgold, GA; Katherine Rosanova and daughter Isabella of Lake Zurich, IL; Christopher Kuhlman and former wife Renee and their children Norah and Finn of Blacksburg, VA; Mark Kuhlman and partner Janis Calhoun of Freeport, FL, and Karen Amos and husband Robert and daughter Eliza of Barrington, IL.
A private funeral service was held at the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery with military honors. A public celebration of life will be planned and announced by the family when it is safe to gather together.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Dick’s memory to Heartland Honor Flight in Kansas City, or to Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, California.