Thursday, October 21, 2010

LACo Recurrent, Ret., Roger "Chopper" Lyon, R.I.P.

*** Update, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 ***
Just in courtesy of Retired LACo Chief, Randy DeGregori:

Subject: Paddling Out in Honor of Roger Lyon - KCOY Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo - News
Date: October 30, 2010 6:21:27 PM PDT


*** "Update", 10.21.2010:

Just in from Roger Lyon's son, Kris, with respect to two memorials set by the family for Roger, to celebrate his life:

From: Kristopher Lyon
Subject: Celebration of the life of Roger Chopper Lyon
Date: October 21, 2010

"There will be two celebrations for my father.

The first will be a Paddle Out. This will be at 0900 on Friday, October 29, 2010 on the north side of the pier in Cayucos. All are welcome both in the water and via the pier.

A celebration of the life of Roger Chopper Lyon will be held at 2pm on Friday, October 29, 2010 at the Hearst Ranch Dairy Barn. Look for the memorial signs at the Hearst Ranch entrance just north of the Hearst Castle entrance on Highway 1 north of San Simeon.

My father was an incredible person. He lived his 61 years to the fullest and was incredibly happy. The lifeguarding and swimming community were very important parts of his life and all are welcome at either of these celebrations. Please feel free to pass on this on to anyone who was touched by my fathers life. You may also post the memorial information on your blog if you would like."

Thank you,

Kris Lyon


(Photo close up above shows LACo Recurrent, Roger Lyon, in 1971.)

(Photo above shows the LACo 1971 Competition Crew. Photo courtesy of Richard Mark and Randy DeGregori. Photo Copyright LACOLA Trust Fund 1971. Used here with permission. Roger Lyon is all the way at the right in the top third row.)

"County Recurrent" just received unfortunate news of the tragic death of retired LACo Recurrent Beach Lifeguard, Roger Lyon, this past weekend, in a small plane accident while on a charitable mission in Baja, Mexico. Roger, a successful attorney, in San Luis Obispo, on the Central Coast of California, was a nationally ranked age group, high school and at USC where he swam for the legendary Coach Peter Daland and was an All American in 1969, 1970 and 1971. And if you are wondering why not all four years of NCAA eligibility, just see what Kevin McVerry explains below about Roger's focus and the special program he completed.

It was while at USC that Roger became an LACo Recurrent.

Below is a two page excerpt from Richard Mark's Lifeguard Photo Library and Book Project which features the names of the 1971 LACo Lifeguard Competitors (in the photo referenced above). Many Thanks to Richard for the courtesy of permitting us to post this.

(Special Thanks to Steven J. Koeppe for his digital prowess in converting these 2 images to Jpegs so that we could share them with you on this memorial blog.)

LACo Recurrent, Kevin McVerry, also informed us of the following about Roger's background: "I know that Roger went to Harvard School (now Harvard-Westlake) where he swam fly. He was right at 50 seconds. He graduated HS circa 66/67. He went to USC on their 3/3 program that gave him entrance to law school after 3 years of college. He worked up at ZUMA."

Retired Lifeguard Chief, Randy DeGregori said: "Roger was a Zuma guard in the late 60s and early 70s. One of his High School Swimming records at Harvard High was just broken about two years ago. Roger was a SC grad, as an attorney he represented the Hearst Corporation's interests in the Central Coast. Roger was active as a pilot flying volunteer doctors into Baja California. Roger was 61 years old."

Here is one article about Roger that includes a recent photo of him that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle at:

This Memorial Blog also includes the following remarks from some of Roger's friends and Zuma lifeguard buddies.

1. Spike Beck had this to say about his friend Roger:

"Chopper Lyon was a very close friend of mine for many years; here's one of my favorite stories.

Jerry Heinrich and I were doubled at Tower 4.
I believe this was the summer of 1970 or 71. The surf had been big for a couple of days, but was dying down this day; becoming very inconsistent. As usual, the press comes down late in the day, and late in the swell. One of the tv news channels shows up about 4 o'clock- just about the same time Chopper Lyon comes to say hello.

The news people wait around for something to happen - and as usual, nothing does -----that is until Chopper takes matters in his own hands. He tells us, "watch this" ---"you're going to be famous". So Chopper, one of the best swimmers in the world, a recent competitor in the Pan Am Games, NCAA finalist for USC, jumps in the water, swims out to the drop zone, and proceeds to "drown". He looks like he just got off the bus; his arms flailing, his legs deep in the water, his head goes under a couple of times, and Jerry and I just look at each other. We go down to the water and try to get him to come in by yelling (probably obscenities) at him and waving our cans. All to no avail.

Jerry and I had already been fired once by Howard Lee that year. We knew HQ was watching, they didn't know it was Chopper, and the news cameras were spinning. We dove in.

When we got out to Chopper (I'm sure I beat Jerry there --- he has a different version) he "desperately" grabbed our cans. We brought him to the beach, his arms over both our shoulders, where he collapsed on the beach in "sheer exhaustion". The cameras loved it. I can't remember whether the call car came down --- but it didn't matter. We made the news that night.

After the news people left, Chopper turns to us and says - "I hope Coach Daland doesn't recognize me".

Farewell my friend."



2. From LACo Recurrent, Steve Fisher, we received the following tribute to Roger:

"I met Roger at SC and we remained good friends through life. Roger had an impressive, beautiful freestyle that reminded me of a precision German motor car as he glided through the water, hence the nickname/moniker “Chop” or “Chopper.”

Chop had a tremendous passion for life and loved nature and the outdoors. He was truly a ”Lyon” of a man, I vividly remember our Yosemite backpack trips where I would walk behind him and have to take two steps to his one. I think he was at least 6 feet 4 or 5?

After college we kept up with each other in the bay area, he went to Hastings, I to Santa Clara. I would drive into the city on the weekends where Chop and Susan would take me over to the Tiburon Yacht Club.
My job was to walk up a cobble stone street to the Tiburon Vintners and buy the wine and cheese while Chop and Susan got the Hobbie Cat and wetsuits ready for a great fall day of sailing in the bay. After sailing, it was back to the city and a walk downstairs into what I thought was the basement of an old ghetto type building only to find a French restaurant that was right out of a Great Gatsby movie. Roger and Susan’s hospitality made life enjoyable for all of us.

The weekend visits to their ranch in Cayucos
(I have recently been informed they call it “Camp” now) and the fun parties outside with college friends, lifeguards and the locals will never be forgotten and were a breath of fresh air for all on our journey through life.

Chop loved lifeguarding and lifeguards.
We would work the west end of Zuma in the late 60s and Chop reveled in the August south swells when the surf hit a real 10 feet. He was well respected and any guard working next to him knew he was in good hands (we didn’t have lady guards yet). Who wouldn’t with a 50.6, 100 yard Butterflier in the next tower.

Roger carried his love for lifeguarding and lifeguards to the end. Recently, he told me he wished he had never dropped off the list. Any lifeguard, whether or not Chop knew them, had an open invitation to stop by the ranch.

Roger’s honesty and upfront personality were two character traits that stood out. Roger was deeply in love with Susan and would tell you how lucky he was to find such a great partner in life. Roger and Susan raised two sons, Michael and Christopher, a medical doctor and veterinarian respectively

I hope my experiences give you greater insight to this incredible guy, his passing has taken a big chunk out of me.

See you at the Chair two parking lot. It looks like another record year."

Brother Fish


3. Photos Courtesy of Randy DeGregori featuring Roger on two different Fiji surf safaris, and with Randy and Billy Robinson on yet another surf trip. The undersigned is getting the accurate impression that these three LACo lifeguards are also life long surf hounds.

From 2007 Fiji, Namotu Island, that's Roger at far left in the foreground going after the plate of food after a hard day of surfing with his bros...

(Photo courtesy of Randy DeGregori. Used here with permission.)

we would be remiss if we also did not comment upon Randy DeGregori, seated at the head of the table in the background of the photo above, and the suntan, the smile and his generally pleased look of satisfaction of having carved up waves all day long with great friends and was sitting back and surveying the scene filled with great friends and great food..... in paradise. Do you think Randy was thinking about the rest of us back here watching the water and guarding lives?.... at this moment in time....

Also, below, from 2007, according to Randy, even though the photo is dated Aug. 5, 2006... which leads us to wonder about that so called business trip that Randy and his fellow LACo OLS, John Stonier, at right in said photo, took in August of 2006 to a supposed "swift water rescue conference" in Idaho...

(Photo courtesy of Randy DeGregori. Used here with permission.)

From 2009, on yet another Fiji surf trip, here Roger is at far right, again going after the food on the table...

(Photo courtesy of Randy DeGregori. Used here with permission.)

In the two photos below, L2R: Roger, Randy DeGregori and Bill Robinson, laughing at how ridiculously good the surf is and that this is what "watching the water" is really all about..., not to mention the "swift water rescue conference", wink wink, that they took the summer before.....

(Photo courtesy of Randy DeGregori. Used here with permission.)

(Photo courtesy of Randy DeGregori. Used here with permission.)


4. Photos by and courtesy of Paul Lottman
who wrote to Mark Thompson and Terry Flanagan, fellow age group swimmers and lifeguard pals of Roger's, as follows:

"I could not find the photos from the '65 Jr. Olympics. They are around somewhere but I have scoured the likely places to no avail. Attached are a few shots from 03, 05, and 08...

Many thanks."

note: The photos below are by and courtesy of Paul Lottman and show Roger at home, out front of his law office in San Luis Obispo, and on his ranch.

*** *** ***

"County Recurrent" wishes to express its sincere condolences to Roger's wife, Susan, and his sons, Michael and Christopher, Roger's extended family, friends and colleagues.

Many thanks to our lifeguard crew and Roger's friends for keeping us all in the loop and for sharing their memories and tributes to Roger Lyon, Husband, Father, Friend, LACo Recurrent Beach Lifeguard, Surf Hound, Attorney, and so much more.

After learning of Roger's years as a Zuma lifeguard in the stories above, I found myself driving north on PCH through Malibu earlier this evening at dusk. As I reached the crest of PCH at Malibu Canyon Rd. and started the descent toward Latigo, the storm clouds were thinning, the sun had just broken through a section of the clouds and was lighting up the ocean near Paradise Cove and I thought of Roger and his Zuma buddies "back in the day" and what it must have been like to work with the likes of the guards we can all see in the group photo above from the Summer of 1971 and I got the sense of how Roger must have felt driving to work at Zuma on PCH.

Thinking of him now, this is where I visualize him now... driving that road at dusk after a day of surfing and heading west to check in at the Village and see friends at Zuma HQ. Close your eyes and you may see him too. He's there now in our mind's eye, laughing, loving and living life to its fullest. He is not forgotten. He is with all of us forever.


Will Maguire, Editor
"County Recurrent" News

Service • Training • Commitment

*** Keeping the County Recurrent "in the loop"..... whether he/she likes it or NOT ! ***

DISCLAIMER: County Recurrent is not affiliated with nor sponsored by LACOLA or LACoFD.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****


spyder said...

Paul Lottman remembers Roger:
"He was constantly working on projects of one kind or another. Among other things he did an abundance of stone work on the ranch, personally building numerous rock walls and walkways. He was very pleased with the wine cellar, replete with low voltage lighting, that he built under the ranch house where he and Susan lived. We shared a couple of cigars in the cool cellar and on the deck as he talked about his plans around the ranch. We drove a tractor out to a site on which he hoped to build a house for his son Kristopher and his wife. Kris was named for Kris Kristensen, our beloved swim coach. As we wound our way along the rough road a deer loped along ahead of us, leading the way to the building site. It was ridiculously beautiful. The next morning Susan and Roger rose early to round up some cattle and load them into trailers for market. Some of their neighbors joined in to help them. Joanie, Elisabeth and I said goodbye and headed off to Yosemite. That was the last time we saw him. It was June of 2008. I still cannot believe that he is gone. My mind cannot quite get around it. He just finished building a cool lap pool on the ranch and sent photos of the extended family enjoying themselves around the pool. He had a gift for living and although he worked hard at it, he made it look easy.

He won the CIF 100 fly in 50.8 and the 200 free in 1:44 something; pretty remarkable high school times for those days, or even for today. It was 1966. I was at the meet with Jerry Brainin and we convinced the cute chick that was handing out the medals to give Chopper a kiss along with his award. I think they actually wound up dating briefly.

Chopper loved to fly and he was a very good pilot. He excelled at everything he did, especially living a life rich in humanity and full of love. We are shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of our dear friend. He was such a beautiful soul.

peace and love, Paul and Joanie"

Chopper came out of the Valley swim programs of the 50s and 60s, as did many lifeguards of the time. They were great swimmers who engaged in epic age-group and high school swim battles, then played poker (and other games) under the bleachers to pass away the time, and Chopper was always there. I can't think of anyone who had a bad word to say about or to Roger, except when he kicked your butt in the water. And even then it was mostly superlatives.

William Maguire said...

Just in from Zuma Lifeguard, Jerry Heinrich:

"I believe Roger started lifeguarding for the county in 1971. He worked Zuma. Great athlete, wonderful person, and fun to be around. He didn’t talk a lot, and though his accomplishments were numerous, he never bragged. In fact the only way to learn of his talents was though mutual friends.
One of my first backpacking trips into the High Sierras was w/ Chopper and Cliff Rediger, another Zuma guard. I learned a lot about high altitude hiking and the proper equipment from Roger on that trip.
He really cared about his friends, and the only time he wasn’t smiling was when he was laughing.
And you could always tell that he loved and was devoted to Susan.
It’s been years since I stopped in and saw him at his law office in SLO, but I have some wonderful memories.
My sympathy to his family. He will surely be missed."
Jerry Heinrich

spyder said...

This came in today:
> Hi Mark-
I have been processing the loss of Roger for the last few days. Roger was highly accomplished as a swimmer, attorney, and family man. I remember him appearing as a pretty casual competitor but very determined and tough.
I swam with, or I should say behind, Roger at Kris Kristensen Swim School in the '60's, the "glory years" of swimming in the Valley. When we would occasionally do time trials in prep for an upcoming meet, Kris had Roger swim alone. The rest of us watched in awe as Roger would cover yardage with each powerful butterfly stroke. There were few bigger names nationally in high school swimming than Roger Lyons at that time.
When Roger got his first car, he discovered surfing, much to Kris Kristensen's dismay. I remember ditching more than one morning workout to go to Zuma with Roger and Paul Lottman.
Rest in Peace Roger.
Jim Doman

Unknown said...

I attended school with Roger in 1967, the one year that I spent at Harvard School. He was a really great guy. It seems as if it were only yesterday.

May he rest in peace, and if he returns to this world in another lifetime, may he continue where he left off, bringing friendship and good will to his companions on the road of life.

George Flournoy