Nautical 23

Robert "Bob" Earl Powell

March 19, 1926 ~ August 4, 2021 (age 95)


Capt. Robert "Bob" Earl Powell, 95, of Poplar Bluff, MO passed away Wednesday, August 04, 2021.

Robert was born on March 19, 1926, to Ira and Lena (Rice) Powell in Caruthersville, Missouri.  He married Fay Lavern (Kanell) on August 9, 1959, at the First Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff.

Robert attended First United Methodist Church. He was member of the United States Army and served in WWII. He was a member of several lodges and organizations including Blue Lodge Masons, Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, NRA, and American Legion. He enjoyed listening to music and dancing in his younger years, and he liked classic cars (especially his 1969 Triumph GT6), jigsaw puzzles, gardening, and visiting restaurants. Most importantly, Bob was a servant-hearted family and a true gentleman at heart.

Being the grandson of the designer and builder of Powell’s Ferry in Caruthersville, Robert was truly born of the riverboat stock. Having worked on boats beginning his teenage years, he earned his Master Pilots license at age 21, and drove boats until age 89. During his two years of Army service in WWII, he drove boats in the Aleutian Islands (Alaska) despite his original assignment in Army Supply. After the war, his notable towboat assignments were the A.D. Haynes, the Lilian Clark, and the W.J. Barta (the first 10,500 hp boat on the Mississippi River). Being the first to pilot these boats, he set the records for the largest tows pushed at the time. Following this, Robert switched from pushing barges, to safely piloting guest aboard the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen (paddle-wheel boats).

Robert is survived by his wife of 62 years, Fay; one son, Timothy B. Powell, and wife Nancy of Poplar Bluff; one sister, Rose Anna Nicks of Texas; three grandchildren, Victoria (Cameron) Hills of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Vanessa Powell of Poplar Bluff, and Saxton Powell of Poplar Bluff.

Robert was preceded by his parents; one son, John Robert Powell; five brothers, Van, Albert, Roy, Howard, and L.B. Powell; and three sisters, Kathryn Hills, Mary Powell, and Ruth Rice.

Visitation will be held on Thursday, August 12, 2021, from 11:00am-1:00pm at Willow Ridge Funeral & Cremation Services located at 1100 Iron Bridge Road in Poplar Bluff, followed by the funeral service at 1:00pm. Burial will take place at the Chapel of Memories Mausoleum in the Poplar Bluff City Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the American Legion Post 153, at 2320 Kanell Blvd., Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

Willow Ridge Funeral & Cremation Services is proud to serve the family and friends of Capt. Robert Powell. Online condolences can be made at

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert "Bob" Earl Powell, please visit our floral store.


Funeral Service
August 12, 2021

1:00 PM
Willow Ridge Funeral and Cremation Services (Iron Bridge Road, Missouri)

August 12, 2021

11:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Willow Ridge Funeral and Cremation Services (Iron Bridge Road, Missouri)

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