Former first selectman remembered for 'leadership skills'

WASHINGTON — Former first selectman and lifelong Washington resident Mark Lyon died March 31 at home after a battle with cancer.

“His commitment to the town just couldn’t be matched,” said First Selectman Jim Brinton, who knew Lyon for 30 years. “The only thing that would have surpassed that commitment was his commitment to his family.”

Lyon is survived by his wife, Lillian, three children and several grandchildren.

Lyon was first selectman for 12 years and, before that, sat on the board of selectmen from 2005-07, and was a member of the board of finance as an alternate and full member from 2002-05.

In addition, he was a 40-year member of the Washington Volunteer Fire Department and a former chief.

Lyon, a Republican, was in the middle of his fifth term when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2016.

“He was a terrific guy,” Brinton said.

Washington Town Clerk Sheila Anson said her classmate was a well-rounded man who exhibited “strong leadership.”

“Having known him as a friend for so many years, and then finally working with him in the relationship of town government, I was not surprised by his leadership skills,” Anson said.

“He was a smart man and had a lot of common sense,” she said. “To see him with all different things — not just in business — but how he handled the October storm that created power outages, and then the explosion at Town Hall, he managed it all with such calm and poise as he did flipping a burger at a softball tournament or wearing his Fourth of July attire at the road race.”

“He had a calm leadership, calm spirit,” she said.

A day after Lyon’s death, flowers and messages of love appeared on the lawn of Salem Covenant Church.

The memorial was suggested by the Rev. Linda Williams as a way to honor a man who had a deep affection for the community.

Given the pandemic, attendance at a funeral isn’t possible.

“He was really loved by many,” Williams said.

Lyon was a member of the First Congregational Church of Washington.

“In typical Mark fashion, he was a do-er — he was very involved with our men's breakfasts when we had those, and he consistently helped out at our two big events, the Green Fair and the Harvest Dinner,” said the Rev. Robyn Gray, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Washington.

“At the Green Fair, he flipped burgers par excellence, always showing up in his signature Hawaiian shirt,” she said.

“And like he did in every area of his life, when he saw something he thought was lacking, he changed it,” she said. “He introduced breakfast sandwiches on the grill to the Green Fair, which we've served ever since and are still quite popular.”

Lyon was known for his unique attire that included mismatched plaid and stripes, Anson said, and his waxed handlebar moustache set him apart.

Anson recalled Lyon’s attachment to Hawaiian shirts, which he especially wore while getting cancer treatment.

On one of his last days of treatment, town hall staff donned floral or Hawaiian shirts as a show of support.

Staff also remembers him for his lunches, which often included leftovers from the night before.

“He loved his food,” Anson said.