Riverboat captain retiring after nearly five decades on the Mighty Mississippi

ST. LOUIS – A veteran of vessels is stepping away from his unique post under the Arch. For almost half a century, this modern-day Mark Twain made sure it was smooth sailing for two river-cruising vessels.

But now, Tom Dunn, the director of operations for Gateway Arch Riverboats, is charting a new course in life.

As the Mighty Mississippi rolled on under a cloudy Wednesday, so will the Becky Thatcher. But come October, the vessel will roll along the river without Dunn.

In this river town, this riverman has spent the last 45 years in the shadow of the Gateway Arch.

In that time, he's made sure thousands of passengers had a fun, safe trip up and down the Mississippi River.

And he can tell you the times when it's swelled and caused trouble. But like Twain, he knows the crooks and crannies of this river.

When The Admiral broke free from its moorings in 1998, the Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer helped safely offload more than 1,700 people from the vessel.

“Through the years a lot of different boats have come and gone – (the) Robert E. Lee, Admiral, and through it all, the Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer have remained open and most of the time has been spent coordinating these cruises,” Dunn said.

Dunn said he plans to spend his retirement remodeling a home.