Friends and colleagues of retired Carrboro Recreation & Parks Director Richard Kinney remember him as a forward thinker who left an indelible stamp on his town.

“He was a dedicated recreation director who had the foresight to see the growth that was occurring, and the needs of the community,” says Carrboro Recreation Administrator Dennis Joines.

Richard Kinney served Carrboro for 27 years as as director of Recreation & Parks , until his retirement in the early 2000s.

He died March 7, at the age of 61, of an apparent heart attack at his home in Hillsborough. He is survived by Lorah, his wife of 37 years; and their daughter Lorah, and their son, Richard.

Kinney was a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in recreational administration.

Alderperson Jacquelyn Gist started working with Kinney back in 1990, when she first took her seat on the Board of Aldermen.

She opened the March 11, 2014 Aldermen meeting at Town Hall by paying tribute to Kinney.

“He was a great, great guy,” said Gist. “He was so funny.

“I know a lot of you never met Richard, but if you’ve been to the Farmer’s Market, or you’ve been to Anderson Park, or you’ve been to the Century Center, that’s all Richard. A lot of who we are comes from Richard.”

Gist cites Kinney as a perfect example of how Town staffers are the unsung heroes of local government. She adds that it was particularly true during the planning for the Anderson Community Park on Highway 54.

“The boards come up with these grand ideas, and then it is staff’s – in this case, Richard’s – job to figure out how all that’s going to happen: How’s the park going to look? How is it going to be staffed? How’s it going to be laid out?”

Gist says that Kinney, in his good-natured way, was always there to remind town leaders that public spaces such as the Farmer’s Market and Town Commons should be open to all citizens.

Former State Senator Ellie Kinnaird was Mayor of Carrboro from 1987 through 1995.

Like Gist, she remembers Kinney as a big-picture guy who knew his stuff, and wasn’t afraid to say what people needed to hear. But he always shared that knowledge cheerfully, and with humor.

“He was always cheerful, always upbeat,” she says. “And if you’re going to put a stamp on a town or a project, that is what you need. You need to learn how to really get along well with people and share the vision that you have, so that they share that vision, too.”

As she paid tribute to Kinney at Tuesday’s Aldermen meeting, Gist told citizens of Carrboro that there is still a way to get to know Richard Kinney, even though he’s now gone:

“Go walk around the park, or go to the Farmer’s Market, and feel Richard there.”