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Richard Lake III

Richard Ezra Lake III, 80 of St. Louis, MO, born Monday, April 21, 1941 in Kansas City, KS and passed away on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 at Sunrise on Clayton, St. Louis, MO.

Rick spent his early years moving from Kansas to Illinois, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, as his father worked for the Rock Island Railroad, until landing in St. Louis in 1956. He met Venita, his future wife, at Riverview Gardens High and they were married fifty-nine years ago in June 1962. After high school, Rick spent several summers working in the Kansas City rail yards, where his father and grandfather had once worked, being a fireman and learning to be an engineer. After two years attending Missouri University in Columbia and his father’s death, he worked at Granite City Steel in Illinois and then Granco Steel Products in St. Louis, eventually going back to school at the new University of Missouri in St. Louis where he completed his degree. 

While teaching English for a brief time at Rosary High School, he was offered an interesting position at Carbondale High School setting up a new reading and study skills lab. So, the Lake family, one wife, one daughter, and one basset hound moved to Illinois, where Rick also earned his masters degree in education. Meanwhile, a friend mentioned an opening at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley. With the right location and grandparents welcoming the family back, now with another daughter and a second basset, the family started its move back to Missouri. Experiencing similarities to his father’s reassignments by the railroad where dad went to work at the new place and mom packed up, Rick stayed with his in-laws while Venita tried to sell their home. A colleague at the college encouraged Rick to consider moving to her neighborhood in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood in St. Louis city’s west end. And there the Lakes had found a home.

At home, Rick enthusiastically joined neighborhood activities. He performed in dinner-theater melodramas, occasionally the hero, more often as the villain. He was involved in many Mother’s Day art fair/house tours, neighborhood cleanups, other events, and later the community garden. Going back to school part-time, Rick earned his Master of Liberal Arts degree from Washington University and proposed taking country and western dance lessons at the community college, which led to Rick and Venita teaching briefly.

Trains remained an interest and model railroads resulted in building a large layout in the basement and going to many National Model Railroad Association conventions. Travel led to riding many working and excursion trains throughout the continental U.S. and Alaska, Canada, England, Scotland, France, Costa Rica, Australia, and New Zealand. Cruises were a favorite vacation. After retiring from teaching at Florissant Valley, Rick returned to his early experience, working on the St. Louis Zooline Railroad in nearby Forest Park for several years. He enjoyed being an engineer and training others on those hills and curves and later was a dispatcher, tracking where trains were at each station. Finally, Rick stopped moving. He remained in his home from summer 1974 until his illness prompted one last move to assisted living in 2020.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Richard Ezra II and Juanita Mae (nee Elley) Lake; his sister Mary Susan (Robert) Asher and his brother.

Surviving are his wife, Venita Jane (nee Archer) Lake of St. Louis, MO; his daughters, Elizabeth Ann “Beth” (Pat Hearty) Lake of St. Louis, MO and Melissa (Marc) Lake Smith of Corning, NY; grandchildren, Georgia Archer Smith and Reece Osgoode Smith; sister-in-law, Sharon (Steven) Mitchell of Cape Fair, MO; nieces, nephews and many friends.

Memorials may be made to the St. Louis Zoo Line Railroad, 1 Government Drive, St. Louis, MO 63110 .  Online expressions of sympathy may be made at

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Richeson Funeral Home, Troy, is in charge of the arrangements.

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