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Donald F. Lee
“One In A Million”
Don Lee always had a plan with impeccable values and integrity. He was a positive example for his family and friends, meeting both success and misfortune with calm resolve. As little “west end” kids he and his brother, John (Jack), considered downtown Kansas City their playground. They often visited their mother, Margaret, for ice cream while she worked in the President Hotel coffee shop. During high school, his father, Jim Lee, opened a restaurant near Nevada, Missouri, called the Red Crown Tavern. Their home on Tucker Lake was to Don and brothers Bob and Jack, the next best thing to living on a farm. Richard, the oldest of four boys and Norma, the only sister, stayed in Kansas City with their mother. On vivid memory for Don was of famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, the subjects of a breakout and shootout at the Red Crown Tavern. Luckily, no one was injured.
It was a classic case of city boy and country girl in 1951 when Don met Mary Evelyn Nichols (Her mother Katherine, a schoolteacher; her father Flavin a farmer’ and her bother Forest, an engineer.) Although Flavin was suspicious of a Catholic city boy, they all became friends. Don and Mary began a relationship that was to last for their lifetimes.
Following his plan, Don enlisted in the US Naval Reserves and served two years at the Great Lakes station. When Don had leave, Mary would take the Texas Chief train at Union Station for a weekend in Chicago.
With the GI Bill, Don graduated from Kansas University’s School of Business while maintaining a vending company in Kansas City.
In 1959, Don and Mary were married at Our Lady of Good Counsel church. Don, his brother Jack and father, Jim, purchased the Savoy Grill on August 27, 1959. Soon after, Don bought out his father and brother. Don continued to operate the iconic Savoy for over 55 years with contributions from wife, Mary, nephew, Danny Lee and family members. Don had many fond memories of his regular Friday and Saturday night customers.
In the mid-70’s Don and Mary settled in south Kansas City and adopted daughter Valerie and sons Thomas and David. While in the restaurant business, Don’s favorite recreation was hunting ducks in Mound City, Missouri, and fishing for bass at Truman Lake. He was president of Bigelow Farms Hunting Club for over 50 years, always showing a profit. Don was a true adventurist, taking trips to Argentina, Florida, Costa Rica and Mexico for fishing and hunting.
Don sold the Historic Savoy on December 9, 2014, to 21-C Museum Hotels and, not being one to retire, opened his current office near 9th and Baltimore, downtown.
Preceded in death by his father, Jim, mother, Margaret, brothers Richard and Bob Lee and sister, Norma, Don is survived by wife, Mary, brother John (Houston), daughter, Valerie, sons David and Tom (Kansas City), nine grandchildren and many special nieces and nephews.
Those of us who had the honor and privilege to be a part of his wonderful life will always miss and remember that infectious smile and how he impacted our lives.
Visitation will be held from 6-7 pm Friday, March 17th at Muehlebach Funeral Care, 6800 Troost Ave, Kansas City, MO. Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:30 am Saturday at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO. Private entombment will be at Mt. Moriah Cemetery. In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial contributions to Children’s Mercy Hospital, 2401 Gillham Rd, Kansas City, MO 64108.