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.

Memorial Contributions

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.


  1. Fred Wallace on October 19, 2022 at 8:19 am

    “Dick”..Mr. Burns…and now I know Capt. Burns was my Biology instructor at MetroJuco in 1966…and, although I was not one of his better students, we had “chemistry”…maybe he Westport High School class of 1951…and me class of 1965… I do not know why…we went our separate ways and over the years met from time to time at very inconspicious… did I spel that corect? times and locations and immediately reconized each other, that from a brief 1966…go figure…he was the “best of the best” …and guys like “Dick Burns” will always occupy the space and time of the best of humanity…

  2. Pam Rupe Farrell on August 24, 2020 at 9:39 am

    My family grew up less than a block from Nall Hills Pool. Our whole lives in the summer revolved around the pool….we practically lived there! We loved Mr. Burns…he would let us help scrub the old pool, hang out, and be there til the last drop of water was drained on Labor Day. We occasionally babysat for his older girls and thought it was such an honor! We admired everything about him and he was like a role model for us. I got to speak to him about 4-5 years ago to let him know how many wonderful memories we had! Eventually We worked in the guard shack and became a lifeguards. The Rupe sisters will always remember him fondly!!

  3. Jim Williams on August 24, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Dick was a special guy. He was my first dean at JCCC and mentor when I began my career there in 1971. Dick and I spent many hours playing tennis. He beat my like the proverbial drum but that didn’t matter because we enjoyed playing and having a few beers afterward. I last saw him a few years ago and was pleased to see that his outgoing, friendly personality had not changed. Rest in peace, Dick.

  4. Ruth Bigus on August 23, 2020 at 10:22 pm

    Mr. Burns always had a bright smile and something witty to say. Sending comfort to the entire family including Karyl Lynn, Meri Kay, Debbie and Mike and their family. May your dad’s memory be a blessing

  5. Neita Geilker on August 23, 2020 at 5:46 pm

    I was so sad to discover Dick’s obituary in the Kansas City Star. I had known him for a very long time and was thrilled to be invited to a Westport reunion event at his home last year and to enjoy visiting with Karyl and their two daughters. What an interesting man!

  6. Susan (Abnos) Lederer on August 23, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    I was so saddened and surprised to see Dick’s obit in the paper today. I remember the day I moved into my new house in Prairie Village in 1998 to see Dick Burns standing in my front yard. I stepped out of the car, and he said to me “Hi, Neighbor!” and he told me he had just said goodbye to the previous occupants. He introduced himself, and welcomed me to the neighborhood. That was the beginning of our 19 years of being next door neighbors. He and Carole were great neighbors – and I would always see Dick out there in their yard, tending to the beautiful flowers, and neatly trimmed grass. I’ll never forget the day when the doorbell rang, and it was Dick. “Do you mind if I work on your garden on the side of your house that faces mine?” he asked. In truth, I was thrilled! As a busy single mother who had almost no grasp of, nor enough time to devote to, yard maintenance, I was happy to accept his help. In fact, I suspected, as I saw new grass growing in some previously bare spots in the lawn one day, and noticing that the bushes in front looked much more trim, that he was busy on much more than just one side of my house! So- when I read in the obit about helping the neighbors with their yards – I’m that neighbor! (or one of them) And, I assure you, I was happy and grateful for his help! (Grateful, too, that he and Carole were so gracious during my son’s “loud band practice in the basement” years.)
    My deepest condolences go out to the family – Dick was a kind and generous spirit, and I was blessed to have him as my neighbor.

  7. Joan Morrill on August 23, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    I was stunned to see that Dick had passed. I partnered with him with several group clients at the Boeger Financial Group in the 70s. Once we rescued an injured cat on the way to a client visit, taking him to a rural vet. A few years ago I played bridge with him at Matt Ross Community Center. He was still the same outgoing friendly person I knew 40 years ago. Last year I spoke with him about a procedure for his back, which he said had helped to relieve pain. The world has lost a thoughtful, generous soul who always greeted you with a smile.

  8. Terri Harrison Grass on August 20, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    Mr Burns was such a dear man. I love that he was in my life.
    When I was around 6 years old I was at Nall Hills pool and needed to swim a lap in the deep end to pass my swim class. I asked Mr Burns to watch me. Well half way across I decided I couldn’t swim. Mr Burns jumped in fully dressed and saved me. He was the best.

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