Barnard: Remembering Joanne

My friend Joanne Lyon, who died on May 5, was a lady in the old-fashioned sense of the word. In the 30 years we were close, I never heard her speak ill of anyone, make a snide remark, show evidence of contempt or superiority or use anyone as the butt of giggles. She was comfortable in her own skin; she knew who she was and how she wanted to live, and so she could be generous in all the connections she made with others.

And there were so many of those they could barely be counted. In a busy life, she wore so many hats she could put Bartholomew Cubbins to shame. Besides being wife and mother — and reveling in both — she raised money, lots of money, for public radio and television in Kansas City; with her husband Lee collected art from far-flung parts of the world; was instrumental, with Lee, in the early days of Anderson Ranch (her tales about once-upon-a-time coed dormitories at the Ranch were priceless); served as chair of the Ranch Board of Trustees; ran the best art gallery in Aspen; organized what became the Forest Conservancy and lined up the first batch of rangers; was a scuba diver, hiker, camper and adventurous traveler, always with Lee; cooked (wonderfully) for friends and family and hungry revelers at legendary Lyon Christmas parties; and, with Lee, was one of the valley’s quietest and most generous philanthropists, supporting a dizzying array of organizations and causes: those pitches we all made that ignited her and Lee’s imaginations and filled a niche in their hopes for enhancing people’s lives.

When we were together, the two of us or the four of us, in our home or theirs, in their cabin in the woods, or their wonderful ocean-buffeted villa in Mexico, we talked about books, theater, music, gardening, all the good causes in the valley and beyond, people, politics, sports, architecture, art, travel — all the things that make our world a fascinating, often frustrating, and as often exhilarating place.

And we talked about family. Joanne was very big on family: She adored her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and while she did not flash photos of them at every opportunity, she would happily display them when asked, and her dozens of tales and anecdotes of their doings, from birth to graduation to travels to careers, danced like bright pieces of confetti through our conversations.

She knew who she was and how she wanted to live, and so she could be generous in all the connections she made with others.

Of all those hats she wore, all her interests and curiosities and passions, what we treasure in the Joanne who will always be a part of our lives was her openness in filling all the roles she played with us: wife, mother, companion, friend, played with love and laughter and a concentrated interest that made us feel we were the most important people in the world to her. And what we’re most grateful for now is that we were able to give her joy and love in return.

Judith Barnard is an author and longtime resident of Aspen.