Dick Dawson | August 2, 1935 – April 20, 2021
Dick passed away on Tuesday, April 20, he was a member of All Souls for 56 years.
He was All Souls volunteer documentarian, always with a camera around his neck ready to document any happening going on. His binder containing hundreds of images is available to peruse at All Souls. He will be missed.
We send our thoughts to his wife and member, Ellie and their adult daughters and extended families . As we know any additional information about memorial plans we will share with you.
Share your memories and words of condolence here:
We met Dick at Southeast High School when he was probably 14 and already an expert birder. It was in first year Latin class. His extraordinary intelligence, good humor and people skills were clearly unique. We enjoyed his annual tome of a Christmas card and admired his open approach to life. He made a difference in many lives. Ellie, please accept our heartfelt condolences. – Ken & Jean Butler
I moved to Overland Park with my parents in 1959 and attended SM North – Dick was my sophomore biology teacher and a wonderfully interesting man that I looked forward to going to class daily to see what he had for us – Fast forward to 1971 as I became a teacher and baseball coach at SM South – I got to know Dick as an adult and enjoyed his wonderful sense of humor – Dick retired in 2000 I believe and I retired from South in 2001 – Dick had us do a bug and leaf collection in 1959 – I did the leaf collection but just could not make myself pick up bugs for the bug collection – So when Dick retired from South we had a retirement party for him and others I decided to draw bugs on paper and turn my bug collection in 41 years late – he accepted my work – I loved knowing Dick as a teacher and faculty member – He was a great teacher of innovation and playful fun. – Bill McDonald
I first met Dick when we were in the art club (Dorians) at Southeast High School. He was part of “our little group”. He was such a good artist and friend. Later, two of my children attended his science camp in Swope Park. Then all three were his students at Shawnee Mission South. My husband and I were judges in the scientific art category for a number of years at the Greater Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair. I always enjoyed the Christmas letters that he and Ellie sent. Ellie, my heart goes out to you and your family in this time. I know how hard it is to lose your life partner. You are in my thoughts and prayers. – Lois Garner Hightower
Dick taught my biology class at Shawnee Mission North in the 1960s. He was an inspired and inspiring teacher with a great sense of humor and became a life-long friend. Dick and Ellie visited me in both Japan and in Hong Kong when I lived in Asia. One memory stands out. I took them on a dolphin-watching boat trip in Hong Kong to see the endangered pink dolphins. We had a great day out and saw a number of dolphins in the shipping lanes around HK. Every time I visit Kansas City to see family, I always visited Dick and Ellie. They were always planning another adventure. We talked of animals, travels and the wonders of nature. I loved Dick’s annual New Year letter, full of musings, poetry and his drawings of birds and other wildlife. The world is poorer without him in it. I feel very blessed to have known him all these years. My condolences to Ellie, Andrea, Carolyn and extended family members. – Linda Laddin
I knew Dick from working as a counselor at Camp Hope, attending Saturday nature classes, taking all his classes at SMS, volunteering in the SMESL and working as a student aide in his classes.
My favorite memory was when I sat down the first day in Biology 1. Dick and I already knew each other from camp. He was describing the year to come in class and started introducing the animals in the room. He brought a tarantula over to my desk, talked about how gentle they were and said he knew I would not mind demonstrating to the class. So, he put the tarantula on my arm and had me show the class.
My eyes got big, I sucked air and followed Dick’s lead showing the class with a smile on my face.
He always brought out the best in people. – Carla Dyas Orner
Oh DA&^. Just DA%$. I saw Andrea, his daughter, was posting a lot of old pix today and I all of a sudden got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I went to her page and sure enough, the sad news. Although I know it’s not sad, not for those of us who believe we go to a better place. But sad all the same for those of us left behind.
He and Ellie are extraordinary people. I am one of those who kept in touch. Classes, canoeing the Ozarks, wild prairie visit, my treasured painting of the Western Kingbird he painted me after I described the nesting bird to him, the hand-written notes, lunch and dinner at his house—once with other classmates and once with my son!(we had carp and lamb’s quarters), colored Christmas newsletters and illustrations, visits to my houses in Kansas and Tennessee, keeping up on social media and messages, words of encouragement and love. It’s funny, with all I learned from him in high school classes, it’s the stuff I learned from him outside those classes that really stuck (although dissecting the mammoth grasshopper, frog, fetal pig and baby shark were super cool).
He was truly a great person, a great teacher, a great dad and a great friend. Prayers, hugs, and love. ❤️ – Susan Swafford Smithburg
Mr. Dawson was one of the most beautiful souls I ever knew. He was so kind to me. He knew how much I Ioved biology but struggled with tests. He took the time to let me answer some of the questions verbally rather than written which worked for me do much better. I in turn did this for a few of my struggling science students. I was lucky enough to get to know his family, and though it has been years since I have been in contact with you, my heart breaks for you all. Your husband/father was an incredible man loved by many, and he loved you all so very much. – Carrie (Courtney) Worth
He was an incredible teacher, entertaining a- nd educational. He left a lasting impression on me from just the one year of his biology class. I did not realize back then the blessing he was. But I know now how blessed I was to learn from him. My condolences to the family. – Brad Bruce
I was Dick’s student at SMS (class of 1970), and later a fellow science teacher in the district. Am so thankful for knowing him and for being the recipient of his many kind gestures over the years. He certainly played a role in my decision to pursue biology education as a career. He is missed. – Tom Heintz
I was his student 1987. Music playing between classes. I was a C student but studied really hard for the anatomy test.(I’m still very fascinated by anatomy) and got the highest grade in class. I was teased for a week. I didn’t care. He made school fun. Prayers and hippie love to his family! – Jennifer Walkup Wilson
Me. Dawson was my high school science teacher. While neither of my careers have been in science, I have often remembered his lectures on the environment and its effects on mankind in general. He was brilliant, Kind and lord knows, patient! May he rest in peace. – Debra Shultz
He was one of my favorite teachers and he always made his class interesting and the learning fun. I realized I loved biology , and wanted to be a wildlife biologist. – Sherryl Vusich
He was a good biology teacher, I learned so much. And he was kind and guiding. Weird thing is that I had remembered him last weekend and tried to look him up on FB. Much sympathy to the family! – Paula Helm (Murray)
I stayed in touch with Dick over the years. As a student, I was both horrified and intrigued by him. LoL. He often played the mating call of whales into the halls of the school between classes. He wore hiking boots and shorts on the bottom, and a tux on the top. His hair seemed to grow straight up. He went camping with Ellie and the kids in a van. He saved the prairie, and celebrated Earth Day. He was an artist. He once offered me a sheep skull (I declined. It didn’t go with my decor). His mother made him a holly shaped bow tie for Christmas which he wore every year without fail. His hand made Christmas cards were often about six pages long. The year he retired, he published photos of his favorite students from 1969 onward. I was grateful to have been included. I borrowed a snake from him once for a musical. Julius Squeezer, (a boa constrictor, of course). He could cover a blackboard end to end in an hour with notes about pretty much anything. When we first met, I can safely say we agreed on nothing. Dick may have been one of the first people who proved to me you could get along, and even like and respect someone completely different from yourself. And knowing him helped me grow as a person. I could go on, but I have never exactly known how to describe Dick.
I hope he has all the answers now.
He was truly one of a kind, and I will miss him. – Susan Seiter
Dick’s love of nature and science and the incredible camp he ran in Swope Park made me who I am today! – Kate An Hunter
I was a science camper first, CIT at science camp, worked the Commissary. Many many year’s on the hill loving every minute. Dick was the best at keeping your attention around a camp fire with his bird sounds and gestures. Thanks Dick – Casey Cofer
Dick was a friend, mentor and an enormous influence on my life. I met him first as 12-year-old birder through the Burroughs Audubon Society. He was always willing to share his knowledge and take the time to help a beginner. Shortly thereafter, I began attending the science camps he ran in Swope Park, where he and Ellie had their home. I later was a junior counselor under his leadership, learning scores of camp songs I later sang to my children and grandchildren. Finally, he arrived at my high school – SM South – during my junior year, where he helped establish the outdoor environmental laboratory. It was too late for me to take beginning biology from him, but I was his lab assistant for two years, so I continued to learn from him. When I left town for my education, we stayed in touch for a number of years, and reconnected later via social media. He was a special person and will be sorely missed. My condolences to Ellie, his children and extended family and friends. – Andrew Melnykovych
I started at Science Camp on Saturdays until I was old enough to attend the summer sessions in the 60’s. Dick Dawson was Science Camp to me. Dick took us to several prairies on field trips. Years later I have become a member of the Missouri Prairie Foundation and learned of Dick’s pioneering efforts in that organization. – David Van Dyne
Dick and Ellie always welcomed me with open arms. When I think of truly kind people they come to mind. Dick showed me his drawings of birds and I marveled at his talent. He will be missed. – Stephanie Revels
Wonderful Dinner for Eight, with an amazing photo show! – Barbara Bemis
I send my sympathy and blessings to Ellie. – Dayna Deck
He will be greatly missed. He was an inspiration for us and a pioneer in science education. – Rod & Carol Harsin
Dick was gloriously himself in a way few people are. He loved Ellie, his family, his church, travel, photography, and living life to the fullest. He will be remembered and treasured by all fortunate enough to have known him. Rest in peace Dick. – Beth Andes