Richard “Dick” Charles Kardell, 83, passed away on the evening of November 24, 2021 at Anthology Senior Living Home in Kansas City, Missouri. Dick was born to Vern & Vivian Kardell in 1938 in Salinas, California.
Dick was a prolific story teller who was known for regaling his friends and family with tales from his life. It is in the spirit of that storytelling that we hope to do his life justice here with just a few of his stories.
The Kardell family’s American story started when Dick’s great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Sweden in the 1800’s with permission from the King of Sweden. A generation later, Dick’s father, Vern, opened a bar in Salinas called the “526 Club”. On the weekends, young Dick went to the club to clean under the bar stools, and was compensated with any change the club’s patrons had dropped.
Vern sold the bar shortly after Pearl Harbor so he could enlist in the Air Force. He served as tail gunner in the South Pacific mostly. Vern’s service was the beginning of multiple generations of Kardell aviators. While Vern was deployed, Dick’s mother, Vivian, also helped the war effort by working in the shipyards in Oakland California as a welder. Vivian commuted every week to work in the shipyards in Oakland for the duration of the war and during this time he lived with his grandparents, “Mom & Pop”.
Mom and Pop lived about 8 miles from Fort Ord, an Army training base on the California coast. Living in such close proximity to the base and with both parents serving the war effort, Dick’s childhood was profoundly shaped by the war. He recalled that the area near Fort Ord was once shelled by a Japanese sub. As the war continued, the area had frequent blackouts. All the lights had to be turned off, and Dick hid under the furniture with Mom and Pop until the all-clear siren was sounded. Dick continued to live with Mom & Pop when his parents divorced.
As a result of the difficulty of war times, Dick learned to be self-sufficient and remained an avid learner throughout his life. In 9th grade he got an afterschool job
at a hobby shop. There he started building and flying model airplanes. This job foreshadowed a lifelong love of airplanes that stayed with him until the end.
After the war, Vivian moved to Amarillo where her brother, Art, owned a bakery. Art helped her open a small café there. The café was successful and she opened a second larger location. At her café Vivian met a customer named John Heket, who she would later marry. After they married Vivian sent for Dick to come live with her and John. Dick credited John for changing his life: “this marriage would change my life forever! Going from living in a small, rented two-frame house with very limited income, to living with John in a very nice stone house in the best part of Amarillo, would change my social status forever! John took me in as if I were his blood son. I now lived in the right part of town and went to the right school. I made good friends and had a great life. I worked weekends at John’s bus station and made enough money to buy my first car. A 1936 Chevrolet that I paid $140.00 cash for. I was the only kid in the ninth grade that had his own car. I was always the one that was available for a double date.”
Later in his teens Dick took his first flight in an airplane. He and his friend Dan Jackson, decided to rent an airplane and fly to Wichita Falls for a hunting trip. Dick was amazed that their pilot was an 18-year-old. Dick watched over the pilot’s shoulder and peppered him with questions all the way to Wichita Falls. So began Dick’s life in the aviation industry.
After his first lesson he was excited to tell his step-father, John Heket, who he called Dad, about his day’s adventure. His mother overheard from the kitchen while she prepared dinner. Dick recalled her declaring “You did what?” with dismay when she walked in to their conversation. She was staunchly opposed to Dick continuing his flying lessons, fortunately John showed a substantial amount of interest in his day’s events and supported Dick’s pursuit of his pilot’s certification.
After reading a book “Eight Hours to Solo,” Dick was inspired to do just that and flew his first solo flight after only 8 hours of instruction. At 16-years-old he completed his pilot’s license and soon thereafter his instructor’s license. He taught anyone that was interested in learning how to fly including his original supporter, John. In those early years Dick piloted charter flights for many in the oil industry including, T. Boone Pickens.
In 1961 Dick got his first airline job with Central Airlines flying the Douglas DC-3. He would later fly the Convair 600, Convair 580, and Boeing 737. Dick reached many distinguished heights in his airline career. He was a check airman, Cleveland base Chief Pilot, Houston base Chief Pilot, and Director of Operations for Continental. The latter was one of his proudest achievements.
In addition to his pilot career, Dick was a deal maker and business entrepreneur. He owned a full-service gas station, opened a sailboat store, wildcatted for oil, developed real-estate, and brokered airplane sales.
Dick married his high school sweetheart Janet (Jana) Robertson and they had three children together: Karon, Ken, and Kana. Dick and Jana were both fierce competitors. They raced sailboats and won numerous regattas together, while their kids played on the lake shore. No one would ever accuse Dick and Jana of being helicopter parents. Dick never liked helicopters anyway. He said they flew by beating the air into submission. Jana passed away January 2, 2004. Dick and his second wife, Cheryl, also enjoyed sailing together but they mostly cruised for fun in the Caribbean. Cheryl passed away October 8, 2006.
After Dick retired from Continental, he decided to build a real airplane, a fully acrobatic RV-8 with the new-found time on his hands. He enjoyed flying formations in his RV-8 with his best friends. Their group, Lone Star Freedom Flight Team, performed at local airshows and did flybys at numerous local events in the Houston area. His call sign was Hacksaw. I’m sure there’s a good story there, but it’s one Dick never shared. When he wasn’t flying airplanes, he was on the golf course playing to win. Other hobbies he enjoyed during his lifetime were building and flying remote controlled airplanes, model ship building, oil painting, and playing classical music on his guitar.
Dick’s warm personality enabled him to easily make friends wherever he went. He worked hard, played hard, and lived life his way. He would tell you that he was blessed to live a long, full life. I’m sure that if he were able to read this obituary, he would have stopped somewhere on the first page and said “That’s good enough”.
He is survived by:
Daughter, Karon McGovern and husband Robert of Warsaw, MO. Their children Lauren Browne and husband Peter, John McGovern and wife Elizabeth, Adam McGovern and wife Katelyn, and Daniel McGovern. Great- grandchildren Noah, Naomi, Amoriah, Annabelle, John, Shayella, Abrielle, and Abigail.
Son, Kenneth Kardell and wife Tambra of Aurora, CO. Their children Kristine Roach and husband Zach, and Jacqueline Kardell.
Daughter, Kana Steinmeyer and husband Michael of Independence, MO. Their children Jessica and wife Hailey, Caleb Steinmeyer, and Jael Steinmeyer Mackey and husband Sean. Great-grandchildren Sawyer, Junie, and one on the way.
Sister, Barbara Hawryluk and husband Cory. Her daughter Malia Balsam and husband Doug. Grand-nieces Kiah Jones and Kirsten, Mila, and Kallie Balsam.
Services will be held at Langsford Funeral Home
Saturday December 4th
Viewing 10:00 Services 11:00
115 S.W. 3rd St
Lee’s Summit, MO 64063
Grave side to follow at Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetery
806 SE 3rd St
Lee’s Summit, Missouri
Lee’s Summit, MO 64063
Lee’s Summit, MO 64063
We miss you and have many fond memories. I am lucky to have you as my father. I will always remember your advice to me when I go fly “low and slow, throttle back in the turns”.
Shortly after exiting the Air Force John McGovern, and I visited Dick for a week down at his Texas Home. It was a week of adventure. We flew his plane doing all kinds of flips and rolls. Played pool and ate pizza with his flying buddies. Telling war stories to each other and about our adventures in Europe, flying, and in the military. We had all had a great time. But the one thing I got out of the weekend was that Dick loved his family, and his grandson John.
Blue Skies Dick God truly blessed you with a beautiful loving family.
I am Dick’s cousin, the son of Arthur James Tankersley. My Dad was Vivian’s brother. As Dick grew up, he and Aunt Vivian would visit us in Amarillo, Texas, during the summer time. When he came to live with John Heket and his mom, we were one year apart throughout our high school years.
When I graduated from high school in 1955, Dick and I travelled together to Salinas, California, to visit our grandmother. For an entire month we had such fun around Carmel and Monterey. On the way we visited Uncle Bud in Las Vegas, where he worked in a bakery. We drove Vivian’s ’54 red Chevy convertible and attracted a few girls along the way. As we followed Highway 66, Dick tried to sell Indian Curios at various Indian stores.
On the way back to Texas, Dick went to the animal shelter in Monterey and picked up a dog. As we were driving across the Mojave Desert we had a flat and I felt so sorry for the dog. He was so hot that his tongue was hanging a foot out of his mouth. We spent the night in Flagstaff and Dick threw the dog into the shower. Without being dried he ran in circles around our room spraying water every where. Such fun for two cousins, teenagers of 17 and 18 years age.
On one occasion as I visited in Amarillo, Dick took me up in his airplane. He immediately put the plane into a spiral over Amarillo. It felt like my insides were going to come up out of me. I was so happy for him to end the flight.
Dick had many hobbies and was always into something new. I was proud that he was my cousin. My sister, Vivian Kay, and I loved all the Heket’s and we had many happy visits over the years.
The last time I saw Dick was when I conducted Barbara and Cory’s wedding in Santa Fe. What a treat that was for me to share in the family’s joyful wedding celebration.
Dick’s mom and John brought such blessing to our family. Vivian was a saint with a profound Christian faith. She cared for many people through her witness and prayers. More importantly, she provided care for members of her family, including my Dad in his final years. I am grateful to God for her compassion and words of encouragement to me. I grew up to become a Presbyterian pastor. We shared many times our faith in Jesus Christ and our hope of eternal life through Christ. I am sure there has been a joyous reunion in heaven with Dick, his grandparents, his parents, and members of the larger family.
Wish I could attend Dick’s service, but I am a caregiver for my wife during these years.
From high school years Dick and I only saw each other a few times, but I have always been grateful for all that we shared in those early years. I place his soul into the arms of Jesus and look forward to glad heavenly celebration with him.
Grace and Peace,
To my very good friends family. I’m so sorry for our loss. He lived a very full and interesting life. He is likely giving flying lessons to angels now.
Karon, Bob, and extended family,
So sorry we cannot attend the services for your loved one. Lauren has shared some great stories with me about his strength and fearlessness. As I read the remarks here I can surely see what a wonderful man mr Kardell was . I am sure you will be reminded of your dad/granddad every time you hear a plane fly overhead. What a lovely reminder that will be. May Gods grace be with you as you grieve your loss until you’re together again. Much love , Bob and Sherry.
He was my best friend for 20 years. We both retired from Continental Airlines and started flying experimental “Homebuilt” airplanes. Freedom Flight was our passion and we flew many “Missing Man” formations for deceased veterans, as well as fly-overs for various community patriotic events and youth sports functions. I will never forget the fun times I had with “Hacksaw”, so named because he could “hack it”. I will profoundly miss my best friend and flying buddy. Rest In Peace, my friend.
Dick was a gentleman that the world needs more of. He was my friend.
Dick was a good friend and mentor who will be missed by everyone who knew him.
Sending thoughts and prayers to the entire family for the loss of Richard.
I worked for Dick when I was based in CLE as a B373 captain. He was always fair and friendly to me. He always had time to listen to you. He will be missed.
Worked with Dick while he was my Chief Pilot in CLE. Yes he was quiet a storyteller, always interested in hearing you story as well. A passing of a life well lived is inspirational.
Capt. David Little
Sorry to hear of his passing. I’m 8 years younger but we have the same birthday (along with Buda). I also lived in Wichita Falls, refused to fly in helicopters (too many moving parts), played the guitar for many years, built model airplanes, ferried singles and twins to foreign countries, flew for Braniff then Continental for 22 years, was a check airman on the DC-10 in Guam, retired 15 years ago, then flew for Asia Pacific Airlines. I know he’s watching out for all of us.
May I offer my condolence for your loss. I had the privilege to briefly know him during my time based in Cleveland from 1975. I shall be saying prayers in this transition and would like you all to know how much I appreciated the lessons he taught me. God bless and keep you all.
I was very fortunate to have Dick as Chief Pilot in CLE. With his encouragement and support and recommendation I went to IAH as an instructor in the B 737 program which had some great perks attached. Flew with him and Ward in their RV’s.
He was indeed an exceptional man and leader as we all witnessed.
What a marvelous influence he was to all around him!