Cover photo for James John Lawlor, Sr.'s Obituary
James John Lawlor, Sr. Profile Photo
1939 Jim 2024

James John Lawlor, Sr.

May 4, 1939 — May 3, 2024

Lee's Summit


James (Jim) John Lawlor, Sr., died May 3, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. He was 84. 

Jim was a voracious reader, particularly of American history and aviation, and a voracious collector of all related things. He was an all-weather pilot, military enthusiast, and animal lover. He was also an eager participant in family shenanigans, adventures, and game nights.

He loved visiting museums, more so in the company of friends, children, and grandchildren who he’d regale as a de facto docent until finally dragged away. His storytelling was legendary — and his family is pretty sure all the stories were true. 

Jim was sweet, optimistic, and generous man with a heart of gold. He couldn’t drive past a stranded motorist or a hitchhiker much to the chagrin of his first wife, Mary. He would literally give a stranger the shirt off his back, money for a meal, or a ride to their destination. 

Jim was born May 4, 1939, in St. Joseph, Mo., to Vincent and Marguerite (Sullivan) Lawlor.

Education was a hallmark of Jim’s life. He attended a one-room schoolhouse, Victory School, in Plattsburg, Mo., then blew up his high school’s chemistry lab, drawing the ire of the president of the school board, his father. He was forgiven and graduated from Plattsburg High School in 1957 then attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, from where he graduated in 1961 with a degree in nautical science, then commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. In 1972, he graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a master’s degree in business administration. 

In the Navy, Jim navigated the skies instead of the seas. He earned the top spot in his aviation class in 1963 and became a patrol plane pilot. From 1963 to 1966, Jim proudly served his country from the cockpit of a P-5M “Marlin” during three tours of Vietnam. During his tours, he earned a Vietnam Service medal, an Air Medal, and a National Defense Medal, all serving as a testimony to his character, valor, and unwavering patriotism. 

Jim’s love of flying took him to TWA in 1966, where his aviation career continued to soar. As a commercial airline pilot, he captained thousands safely to destinations around the world. He was famous for his cockpit commentaries, covering the historic and geographical details of the Earth passing below.  

Aviation was more than a career for Jim — it was his lifelong passion until his retirement. There wasn’t a colleague who didn’t respect Jim’s expertise and attitude during his long career in the sky. Even after retiring in 1999, Jim’s unflappability as a traveling companion reassured even the most anxious flyer. 

As much as he loved to fly, his devotion to his family came first. Jim married Mary (Young) on August 4, 1962, with whom he had four children: James Jr. (JR), Kean, Maureen, and Justin. Jim and Mary fostered a love of history, flying, and travel in all their children, which will remain with them forever.

Jim was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary (Young); his parents, Vincent and Marguerite (Sullivan) Lawlor; his brother, William (Bill) Lawlor; and sister-in-law, Shirley Lawlor. 

He is survived by his second wife: Patricia Winter, whom he married on August 15, 2003; his brother and best friend, Tom Lawlor (with whom he discussed everything but politics); his sister-in-law, Linda Lawlor; his sons: James ( JR) (Catherine) Lawlor, Jr.; Kean (Claudine) Lawlor; Justin (Bao-Tram) Lawlor; his daughter: Maureen (Kelly Cannon) Lawlor; two bonus sons, Kevin Brown (Diane Michaels) and Chris Gehm (Holly Gehm); and his 14 grandchildren: Christine Gahn, Bryan Gahn, James Lawlor III  (Trey), Caroline Lawlor, Caden Lawlor, Rowan Lawlor, Fiona Hunter, Annalise Lawlor, Scarlett Lawlor, Noelle Lawlor, Eva Stanley, Auggie Gehm, Remi Gehm, and Tommy Gehm. 

The family will receive family and friends during the visitation from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 8, at Speaks Suburban Chapel, 18020 East 39th St., in Independence, Mo.

Services to honor Jim’s memory will begin at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at St. Mark Catholic Church, 3736 Lee’s Summit Rd., in Independence, Mo., followed by burial at Calvary Cemetery in Plattsburg, Mo.

Fair winds and following seas, Captain Jim. Your spirit will forever soar above us. Rest easy, your legacy and your stories live on in our hearts.

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

6:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)

Jim's casket will be open at visitation until 7pm, it will then be closed for the remainder of the visitation.

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Thursday, May 9, 2024

2:30 - 3:30 pm (Central time)

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Thursday, May 9, 2024

4:30 - 4:45 pm (Central time)

Calvary Cemetery

., Plattsburg, MO

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