Obituary of William H Lyons
William H. Lyons, Crystal, MN – William (Bill) Huggins Lyons left this world for heaven surrounded by his wife Arline, sister Tada, children, and grandchildren on January 31, 2024, due to the fatal combination of late-stage Parkinson’s Disease and COVID-19. His family and friends will remember him as a loving husband, father, and grandpa, brilliant thinker, genuine and kind leader, talented musician, and enthusiastic adventurer. A pastor of independent, community churches for three decades and later an archeologist studying Native Americans of the Great Basin while he continued to pastor, Bill was wonderfully unique. He could figure out how to fix anything, and seemed to know about, and be able to explain, well, everything about everything. He was the family and friend Siri, before there was Siri.
The son of a University of California professor/agronomist and a physical education teacher, Bill was born in Santa Monica, CA as a natural studier. Bill joined the Air Force at the age of eighteen and was stationed in Omaha, NE as a computer operator back when one computer was a bank of big machines that filled a room. On a fateful evening at a church college-age mixer, his beautiful singing voice and guitar playing caught the eye of Arline Gillett, who sat nearby and batted her big brown eyes at him in admiration. Bill was smitten, and after a proper courtship, Bill and Arline were happily married in 1967.
Bill attended the University of Nebraska and graduated with distinction with a bachelor’s degree in 1971. After graduation, he was pulled towards Christian ministry and he and Arline and their first two children moved to Dallas, TX so he could attend Dallas Theological Seminary. He graduated in 1976 with a master’s degree in theology and was called to be a pastor. Bill and his family, who had grown by another child in Texas, moved to Missoula, MT where he pastored his first church, Missoula Bible Fellowship.
An avid outdoorsman and explorer, Bill led his family of now four children as well as church members on many Montana adventures in boating, fishing, rafting, sledding, camping, and backpacking in the mountains. Many epic family tales originated from his time in Montana.
Bill went on to pastor churches in Cedar Creek, NE, Cutbank, MT, and finally in Albion, WA, with Arline by his side. Wanting a new adventure, he went back to school at age 45 at Washington State University in Pullman, WA to pursue a Ph.D. in Anthropology. He enjoyed leading summer archeology field schools with students in the Great Basin Desert in Oregon, sometimes with Arline as the camp cook. He taught WSU courses and published several scholarly articles on artifacts, silica sediments and obsidian sources found in the Great Basin. He received his Doctoral degree in Anthropology in 2001.
Throughout his adult life, Bill sang and played guitar and banjo, some of which he built and inlayed decorative elements himself. His favorite musical styles were folk and Old-Time out of the American Roots tradition. His songs for children were frequently requested at family gatherings and other events. He performed a number of public acoustic concerts over the years.
Bill was always happiest in the presence of Arline, the love of his life. He often had a mug of dark coffee in his hand and amassed an impressive collection of diner coffee mugs purchased from small town diners and antique stores. He also liked to travel with Arline, visiting their many friends across the country. Bill loved to tinker and fix things, putting these skills to work restoring a number of old houses. Wherever they lived, Bill was a pillar in the community. In 2010, he and Arline were Grand Marshalls of the Fourth of July Parade where they lived in Albion, WA.
Bill and Arline moved to Crystal, MN after retiring in 2012 to be with their Minnesota children and grandchildren. They enjoyed many adventures in the Twin Cities with family and explored the state together on mini trips. He especially enjoyed getting to know his grandchildren and his new nickname, Papa Bill.
In 2017, Bill was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Even as the disease stripped him of cognition and ability, he dealt with it with grace, strength, and humility. He never quit, continuing to venture out with his family up until his last days. His faith remained unshaken throughout his life.
Bill is survived by his wife Arline of 56 years, his daughters and son and their families: Wenda Ballinger and Brad Cordova, Terrie and Craig Fornell, William Lyons Jr. and Clara Mϋller. Grandchildren: Mat Ballinger, Zoey and Skylar Fornell, Yelèn, Edda and Ruby Lyons. He is survived by his three siblings Clark, Tim, and Tada. Bill is preceded in death by his daughter Darsie Ann Lyons.
A funeral will be held on Monday, February 12, 2024, at New Hope Church, 4225 Gettysburg Ave N, New Hope, MN 55428. Visitation is at 10:00 a.m.; service starts at 11:00 a.m. with lunch served afterwards.
In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to New Hope Church Food Shelf or the Cabin Fund at Big Sky Bible Camp, Big Fork, Montana.