YADKINVILLE — On Friday, friends, family and community members joined together at the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center to celebrate the life of Stephen G. Lyons. A native of California, Lyons and his wife Susan moved to North Carolina in 1996, where Lyons was instrumental in the design and planting of a number of area vineyards. In 2009, Lyons helped to establish the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center and served as its co-director along with his wife.
Pastor Mark Brown welcomed guests to the service and Yadkin Arts Council President John Willingham gave a eulogy which told of Lyons’ great legacy to both the local arts community and the Yadkin Valley Wine region.
“I want to begin by paying homage to the grape and more specifically the wine grape,” Willingham said. “This wonderful fruit of the vine which our local farmers have learned how to grow is the very reason that Susan and Stephen Lyons came in to our lives. Long before the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center or the creation of the Yadkin Valley AVA or the new tourist industry brought about by our many new vineyards and tasting rooms, there arrived Susan and Stephen from California, armed with knowledge and know-how and a lot of patience. They exerted a huge impact on the new wine industry in our region. Stephen laid out countless vineyards all over the Yadkin Valley as well as in other parts of the state. He consulted on numerous others. If there was a true early guru of the new industry in this region he was it. Stephen certainly deserves a lot of credit for the success of the Yadkin Valley Wine region.”
Willingham shared a story about Lyons’ work in designing and planting the vineyard at Raffaldini and a certain day when he seemed preoccupied. Lyons told Willingham that the deer were eating his grapes and he planned that very day to erect a seven-foot fence to keep the deer out. He did so all by himself that very day.
“Right then I knew that this man was near superhuman and that he was a builder,” Willingham said. “Little did I know at the time, that some years later this builder would have such an influence on the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center.”
A few years ago, Susan and Stephen were considering moving away but decided to stay when Willingham asked them to become co-directors of the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center which was slated to be built in Yadkinville.
“I’m standing here looking at you and yet I’m seeing way beyond you into this facility,” Willingham told attendees at the service. “I’m seeing the imprint that Stephen Lyons had upon its creation. I’m seeing Stephen running around with a set of plans in his hands figuring out how to build this place. I’m seeing his attention to detail, which he kept up with by placing sticky note reminders all over the place. And I’m seeing the satisfaction in his face when things finally came together with the completion and opening of phase one, and of course I’m seeing the pure joy Stephen exhibited when two years later this theater was completed and opened.
“The Yadkin Cultural Arts Center was Stephen’s last great achievement and perhaps one of his finest,” he said. “He put so much time and energy into its completion. I know that he truly loved this place and I cannot help but believe that we will feel his love each time we set foot here.”
Willingham shared other remembrances of Lyons such as his love for fly fishing, his storytelling abilities and his great diplomacy and ability to facilitate compromise. Other friends and neighbors also shared some of their owns special memories of Stephen.
A friend of Susan and Stephen read Susan’s own words about her husband and how they met through their sons who were best friends since the age of 6 and at the age of 14 “conspired” to get their parents together. Though she said she was hesitant at first about going on the first outing that the conspiring friends had planned, she said she secretly knew from the moment he picked her up that day and she “saw him in profile gazing at a well loved painting” of hers that this “just might be the start of something big.”
“We traveled many miles in our 25 years together and I believe our souls will continue to travel together always,” she said.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.