A 33-year-old Davenport man who died Saturday after apparently falling into the Mississippi River was well-known for his athleticism, his devotion to fellow veterans, his hunger for life and his ability to lift friends.
Flynn Schulz was known in Quad-City running, biking, hiking, beer brewing and veterans circles. The Moline High School graduate and soccer player served in Iraq before returning home to serve his friends. The words most used Tuesday to describe him were "inspirational" and "awesome."
Schulz was with friends Friday night in Rock Island's downtown District and was walking home to his Davenport apartment when he apparently fell from a pier on the bike path that is connected to the Rock Island viaduct, leading to the Rock Island Arsenal. His body was found in shallow, rocky water below the viaduct.
One of Schulz's best friends, Michael Kinney, said friends have a picture of Schulz, standing on a pier in the same area where his body was found.
"It's obvious what happened to him to anyone who knows him," said Nathan Tackett, another of Schulz best friends. "It's hard to accept: The biggest, toughest, fastest and strongest among us would die in this way. It was just a spot he enjoyed. I've done much more dangerous things with him.
"We've been ugly (face-distorting) crying non-stop for days now. All of us just want to remember this incredible spirit that is our friend."
The men described Schulz as a daredevil who was passionate about the outdoors. He also adored his friends, they said, and eagerly let it show.
"He was an absolutely amazing guy and a total inspiration," Kinney said. "He had only two speeds: on or off. He was either asleep or going 100 miles per hour.
"He was always writing poems for people, and he would frame them, and he'd read them to us. On our most recent run across Iowa, there were 24 of us in the group, and I figured there was no way he could write a poem for every single person, but he did."
Tackett described Schulz's poems as "all heart and stuttering," adding, "If you ran your first 5K, he wrote you a poem. They were pretty terrible."
Kinney said he introduced Schulz to the Quad-City chapter of an international organization called Hash House Harriers, whose motto is: "A group of drinkers with a running problem." Members would raise money for charities by running, often stopping at bars along the route.
"I brought Flynn into that two years ago, and he showed up with a tiny red dress on and a blonde wig," he said. "He went at everything that way. He just did the 100-mile Leadville (Trail) Run in Colorado a couple weeks ago, and he ran the last 10 miles in that red dress."
Tackett founded the local chapter of Hash House and said, the first time he met Schulz, he was wearing that red dress.
"Here was this monster of a man with tattoos in the below-zero temperatures, wearing that skimpy red dress," Tackett said. "We instantly fell into being friends. I saw him inspire people to do more than they ever thought they could.
"Flynn was the first one always, no matter what, to be there to help whoever needed it. We've had this realization since he passed away that he never once asked us to help him."
Kinney and Schulz deployed to Iraq together in 2004, Kinney said, and the two remained committed to causes related to veterans, especially the Wounded Warrior Project through their Team Never Forgotten.
Kinney's stepmother, Rock Island County Clerk Karen Kinney, said Schulz volunteered to unload ballot boxes and direct traffic on election nights in exchange for contributions to various causes.
"I love Flynn, but it's not just because he was Michael's friend," she said. "He showed up one time with these injuries, these sores, on his feet, and I told him he didn't have to work. He insisted. That's how he was."
Michael Kinney said his friend had a knack for encouraging people, inspiring them to battle their demons and support them in any way he could.
"He loves picking people up — literally and figuratively," he said. "He'd pick up people he didn't even know, just pick them right up, including men much bigger than him."
When he returned recently from the 100-mile trail run, Tackett said, Schulz asked all of his friends for their race schedules, so he would be sure to be there to cheer them on.
"There are just so many great things about him," Kinney said. "Those poems he wrote would be pages and pages long, and he'd scribble over something, because he had another idea. Then he'd go to read them to you, and he couldn't read his own writing.
"He also couldn't pronounce random words. He couldn't say 'monster.' It wouldn't come out."
Asked what he would say to Schulz's parents, Rick and Pam Schulz, Kinney did not hesitate before saying, "I love him, and I care about him, and we'll deal with this as it comes and not try to figure it out all at once."
Tackett said many of Schulz's friends have been spending time with his parents since news of his death.
"They know how I feel," Tackett said. "He's one of the best people I've ever known. We appreciated him. We kind of lost our heart."