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Centenarian Expert and Older Adults Advocate

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NCAP November 2008 Calendar - Don and Kay Lyon

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 Don, 102, and Kay Lyon

Don and Kay Lyon
Don and Kay Lyon

All days are happy days say Don Lyon, 102, and his wife of 21 years, Kay, 88.  Don grew up in Carson City, Michigan, and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1929. 
          “I was lucky to get a job,” he says, “things were pretty rough during the Depression; young people today don’t know what a depression is. Those in my generation spent our 20s and 30s just trying to make it through, let alone get ahead.” 
          With his degree in electrical engineering, Don was able to get a job with GE, based on the recommendation of one of his professors.

          “I moved to Cleveland; people all around were out of work.”  Don stayed for a time, but when his father became ill he returned home to run the family flour mill.  “The mill had been in our family for three generations and no changes had been made.  It was obsolete.  I made a lot of improvements, so it could be sold.  I then used the money to buy up three farms in the area and I had several acres of top land.” 
          Knowing nothing about farming, Don hired a professional to help manage and run the farms. 
          “When times got better, I sold them, and that’s what gave me the money to make my start in life. During the early 1950s the stock market was going crazy.  If a person had any money to invest, you could do very well.”
          During WWII, Don worked as a project manager in Detroit making instrumentation for aircraft and then was offered a job in New York State, which he describes as his “dream job.”            “I moved to Rochester and took up boating; first sail boats on Lake Ontario and Canandaigua Lake. I joined the Rochester Yacht club.  “I would stay on my boat on weekends – I had a great life there.”  Eventually, he bought a cabin cruiser and all of his free time during good weather was spent on the water.  In 1971, Don retired and he and his wife moved to Florida.  “The first thing I did was buy a boat, a cruiser, the largest I could get and still pull it on a trailer—it was about 20 feet.  We traveled all over Florida on the inland waterways.  People don’t think of that, of seeing Florida by boat.”
          Meanwhile, Kay, a native of Columbus, Ohio, had retired to Florida with her husband in 1969.  The couples belonged to the same church, and were widowed at around the same time. 
          “For a couple of years, I didn’t go out, except to church,” Kay explains.  “Don approached me, but I told him we could just be friends, and we were.  Then one day after church, he grabbed me and said we should start dating.  Soon he asked me to marry him, but I told him I wasn’t ready.  After about a year, I said to him one day, ‘OK, let’s get married.’  And the next day he took me to buy my ring!”  What Kay hadn’t let on was that she had been smitten by Don from the first.  But now she readily admits to it.  “Even now, if we’ve been apart, when I see him walk into a room I still get a thrill.  It’s wonderful to know I love him so much, and he loves me.”  
          The happy couple had a big Greek wedding, and Kay introduced Don to her large, vivacious family, including her two children. 
          “Now he has two children and lots of grandchildren and nieces and nephews – they all love him,” Kay says with pride.  And Don introduced Kay to his other love, boating. 
          “I had never been on a boat before,” she admits.  “The first time I asked him how he learned to drive a boat, and he said with disgust, ‘you don’t drive a boat, you pilot it!’ That’s how green I was.  But I learned and we’ve had a lot of good times on large and small boats. We’ve taken 16 or 17 cruises."
          “We’ve been all over,” Don adds, “Morocco, a lot of exotic places.  The last one was to Greece.” 
          Kay takes over the conversation: “We had such a wonderful time, I got to meet cousins. Don was impressed that I could speak the language, but I grew up speaking Greek because my parents were immigrants and that was the language at home.  I had to learn English when I started school.  And would you believe it, on the way over, we met a couple on the ship and became friends and exchanged addresses.  When I happened to mention them to my Greek cousins, I learned that the woman and I were second cousins!  Can you imagine?  I called her the next day at their hotel and said “Hello Cousin!” and we’ve visited each other here at home ever since.”

          Don is a quiet, thoughtful man, a “deep thinker,” as his lively wife describes him.  Kay is gregarious and always cheerful.  “We don’t let things bother us,” she says, “We enjoy life.”  Don adds: “We have each other; we like where we live and we’re doing all right.” 


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