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Loved ones remember two lives claimed by ‘mighty’ James River

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Two older men from different parts of our area drowned this week in James River - one a regular kayaker who knew how to swim and the other an apparent stranger to the famously diverse river.

The first, 89-year-old John Russell Boynes, served faithfully in the U.S. Army for 19 years, including in Korea, said his son, Durwynn Boynes.

He raised two sons and was living his sunset years quietly in his apartment in the 2700 block of Lauradale Lane in South Richmond.

Recently his car was stolen and demolished, something that greatly disturbed the sergeant who loved order, his son said.

John Boynes

He was also dealing with dementia.

No, he wasn't a regular river user, in fact his son didn't know if he had ever gone or if he even knew how to swim.

For some reason, Sgt. Boynes took off walking on Tuesday, some four miles to the James River and was seen walking by the shoreline. His body was found later that day downriver by the pipeline.

His son wonders if his father got hot from his walk and stepped into the water to cool off.

Early the next day, another disaster struck upriver at the more upscale Robious Park Landing.

Jerry Manikus, 62, of Maidens, regularly kayaked the stretch while his longtime girlfriend/fiancé, Marla Cellini, plied the typically calm waters in her much faster shell.

Wednesday, he helped her launch her craft and watched her streak away before launching his kayak from the dock.

Witnesses saw it get away from him at the dock, and he disappeared into the James.

Gerald Manikus


Manikus, a diabetic, knew how to swim. They even had their own pool.

Did he suffer some kind of medical emergency as he struggled at the dock?

Celluci said the M.E. ruled it a drowning at the scene and there was no autopsy.

Yes, the mighty James runs through all of our lives here in the Richmond area.

It embraces us. It unites us.

And it can claim any of us - without regard of age, race, income or even skill level, as the events of this week proved.

You just never know.