In Memory of Mary Lou Lyon


Mary Lou Lyon
Sept. 18, 1926 - Nov. 8, 2016

Mary Lou Lyon was the matriarch of the Conference of California Historical Societies.  As a history teacher, she embodied the thought that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  Mary Lou loved history and she loved the Conference of California Historical Societies. 

Her service extended to positions such Site & Times coordinator (which plans the conference’s symposiums and annual meetings), to nominating committee, past president, and just about any role one can think of.  Her influence in CCHS was great - she had a vision for California’s historical community, a community which she believed was driven by a love of history and the places which we all call home.   She worked tirelessly to improve the experience of all people in the State of California who wanted to learn more about their communities and who wanted to join a historical society.  She believed that there were so many interesting stories about all communities in California and actively sought the lesser known communities.

She was an historian in her own right.  She published several books and was the editor of Santa Clara County Pioneers for decades.  Past retirement, she continued to teach history to adults and opened the door to many about the rich history of the Santa Clara Valley.

Most CCHS dinner programs end in a raffle and Mary Lou would use her booming voice to read raffle numbers and organize the raffles.  Her humor would come through when watching what people would select, humorously telling patrons that a book is too advanced or that another guest shouldn’t take the bottle of wine.

CCHS and California’s historical community will miss Mary Lou.  With her passing, we have lost a leader with a great passion for California’s history.

 Please share your memories of Mary Lou, and thoughts and prayers for her family, in the comments section below. 

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commented 2016-12-02 23:19:36 -0800 · Flag
When I attended my first CCHS symposium, I was pleased to see that this was not another learned society but a group with a passion for history which was energetically expressed. Mary Lou was the original. I only knew she lived in Cupertino, and we had chatted about Sarah Winchester. Unfortunately I only learned through her obituary that she was one of the original teachers at Homestead High School (1962) in Cupertino. Both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak graduated from there. I’m sure she had some stories about them. I’m sorry I didn’t get to ask.
commented 2016-12-01 11:09:38 -0800 · Flag
You might call Mary Lou the voice of history, particularly when it came to the CCHS as well as in Cupertino and Santa Clara County. She made sure her students in her Cupertino High School history classes for three decades and again in her adult education history classes how fantastic the real history of California is. In her adult classes she would often persuade students to join her at one of the CCHS symposiums and its historic adventures. She wrote two pamphlets about pioneering women in the Santa Clara Valley. Mary Lou Lyon regularly corrected speakers who called themselves authors and historians and made a mistake during their presentation. She compiled the best history of the beginnings of the Conference. In her last years Mary Lou was working on a book about the success of the 1844 Stephens-Townsend-Murphy wagon train party and how most of its members rose to prominence in California history. In short, Mary Lou was tough as they come.
Conference of California Historical Societies
Bringing together California's historical community to share California's heritage, learn from one another and strengthen our communities.