Richard A. Flynn, a former pilot who advocated for recreational opportunities for disabled people, died Wednesday of heart failure, his family said. He was 73.
Mr. Flynn grew up in his native Sacramento with dreams of being a pilot. He left his studies at San Jose State College after earning his pilot's license and began working small jobs as a pilot, including ferrying planes across the country for Piper Aircraft.
He went on to fly for Zantop International Airlines, which carried Ford automotive parts and served air logistics routes for U.S. military bases. He worked his way up to be a captain for Emery Worldwide Airlines and flew between the United States and Pacific Rim countries. He enjoyed talking about his travels and flying a historic Ford Trimotor transport plane that later was installed at a Smithsonian museum.
In 1990, a week after starting a business with his wife locating and returning lost airline luggage, Mr. Flynn was seriously injured in a collision while driving to Clearlake. Hospitalized for several months, he was regaining his ability to walk when he mysteriously began falling. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which required him to use a wheelchair and forced him to quit flying.
Despite the setback, "he never dwelled on it," said his wife, Betsy. "Once in a while, he'd wake up and say, 'I dreamed I was flying last night.' But he had a positive attitude and found something else he was passionate about."
An avid golfer and hunter, Mr. Flynn led efforts to improve access to outdoor activities for disabled people. He advised the state Department of Fish and Game on disabled-accessible trails and volunteered as coordinator for the California Waterfowl Association's Disabled Sportsmen Commission.
He led a successful effort to allow adaptive golf carts for disabled people on Sacramento County public golf courses. He helped organize the city of Sacramento's program for disabled golfers and served several years on the city's disabilities advisory panel.
"He did an outstanding job because he was so passionate about handicapped people," said former City Council member Robbie Waters, who appointed Mr. Flynn to the advisory group.
Richard Allen Flynn was born in 1939 to a homemaker and an administrator for the State Compensation Insurance Fund. Raised in east Sacramento, he was a bat boy for the Sacramento Solons and a caddy for Barbara Romack, a U.S. amateur golf champion who played at Del Paso Country Club. He graduated from Sacramento High School in 1957 and attended Sacramento City College.
He married the former Betsy Morebeck in 1975, had a son and lived in Sacramento's Greenhaven neighborhood. He enjoyed following the San Francisco Giants on TV and going out in his wheelchair on trips with hunting buddies.
"I never heard him complain," friend John Ball said. "After he became disabled, he just hung in there and kept going. He was an inspiration to everybody who knew him."