William Stewart Lyons, M.D.
Dr. William Stewart Lyons, M.D., aged 95, died peacefully on Thursday, December 12, 2019, at the Spring Cottage memory care unit at the Spring Hills ALC in Alexandria Virginia. He is survived by his two remaining sons William (III) and Jon, Grandsons William IV, Alex, & Mark, Granddaughters Christina, Mary, & Janet, (and their children Rowan & Neira) and by his sister, Eileen, and her children, Roy, Paul, Janelle, and Claire. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery and the ceremony will be announced at a later date, once established.
Dr. Lyons was born to William (I) and Emma Lyons in the Brightwood neighborhood of NW Washington D.C. on April 15th, 1924.
William was the eldest of three children, which included his brother, Lloyd, and sister, Eileen.
In his grade school and high school years, young William was a strong student and an industrious sort. He worked hard in school and seemed to be in constant motion playing ball with other neighborhood children, being a boy scout, and building model planes.
And as a young man approaching high school graduation, he would ride his bike or hitchhike miles to school. But while away from school, he’d work diligently on his car, keeping it in perfect shape. He also held a number of jobs to help the family as they dealt with his father’s advancing illness.
Following graduation from Gonzaga High School in 1942, William entered College briefly at Hampden-Sydney. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor triggered the U.S involvement in WWII, he felt a strong duty to serve in defense of the country and by mid-1943 enlisted in the Navy, where he began training as a pilot.
This quickly evolved to becoming a naval Officer and, after graduating Midshipmen’s school at Notre Dame in 1944, he then entered officers training in Norfolk, becoming an Ensign in 1945.
As an officer assigned to the Destroyer U.S.S. Corry (817), his duties were as Intercept Officer, in charge of identifying targets on radar and managing tactical engagement.
Later, after WWII and his honorable discharge from active duty in 1946, he ascended to the rank of Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve in 1948.
After his military service, Dr. Lyons resumed his education at George Washington University to graduate earning a doctorate in medicine in 1951 and the title of M.D. by the National Board of Medical Examiners in 1952.
As an intern at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, he worked under the famous Dr. John Kirklin and formally became a surgeon there in 1955.
This was an exciting time in medicine which featured the development of the heart-lung bypass machine and intra-cardiac (open-heart) surgery, and the intensive teamwork-effort that became a model for complex surgeries of the future.
In addition to his role as a surgeon on that staff, Dr. Lyons made important contributions in understanding and documenting the proper balance of body fluids during the care of the “open-heart” patient.
Following his work at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Lyons returned to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area for private practice where for 18 years he was a doctor on the attending staff at the Washington Hospital Center and became board certified for thoracic surgery.
Among many emergency and “routine” surgeries, Dr. Lyons also accomplished several defining achievements, such as being one of the first doctors to have successfully reconstructed the esophagus of an infant with esophageal Artesia at the Children’s Hospital in 1950. He also inserted the first implantable heart pacemaker done at the Washington Hospital Center.
And he voluntarily went back into the teeth of an active war again to participate in humanitarian medical relief efforts following a revolt in the Dominican Republic in 1965.
A few short years later in 1968, Dr. Lyons achieved a major career milestone by being admitted to the American College of Surgeons, which recognition of his accomplishments and his status as one of the outstanding surgeons in the U.S.
This achievement was a launchpad for Dr. Lyons’ private practice in its heyday of the 1970s and ’80s. His schedule was very full, both in the hospital operating room with surgeries and at his busy office consulting with patients and other doctors.
Surgical work ran a wide range daily, from arterial bypasses, to removing a bullet from the chest of a policeman, to extracting a peanut from the windpipe of a child.
He would regularly work from sun-up to well into the evening – and even all night, if emergencies developed.
Following his successes as a surgeon, Dr. Lyons eventually again felt a higher calling. With some urging by colleagues, he accepted a position as Chief of Surgery at the Greater Southeast Community Hospital. In this role, and in addition to still maintaining an active practice, he also managed hospital surgical policy and maneuvered through the heavy dose of politics that accompanied that role.
Many years of active practice concluded with stepping back into a more hands-on role at the Fairfax and Alexandria hospitals in the mid-1980’s.
In later years, however, he still maintained a vigorous presence in medicine. He was often an expert witness in medical-legal cases and, building on his earlier work at the Mayo Clinic, he was a frequent and significant contributor to medical literature on the subject of fluid balance in hospital patients, ARDS, and Sepsis – circulatory system conditions which he increasingly believed were actually induced or worsened during hospital care.
Over the course of his many years, Dr. Lyons was married twice – first to Lois Johnson of Minneapolis, MN in 1955 who was the mother of his 3 sons, and then later following Lois’s death, to Dorothy Livitsky of Columbia, South Carolina in 1989.
With Lois, he raised his three sons in Lake Barcroft, Virginia. Greg, Billy, & Jon.
Despite a busy practice, and even in the face of advancing illness of Lois, he always seemed to make time for his kids, whether that was heading down to the lake, or building and flying model planes, going on ski vacations, scuba diving trips, or to the beach house……he managed to fit it all in.
Later, with second wife Dorothy, Dr. Lyons moved from his suburban home to a more urban lifestyle at the Skyline towers.
This retirement phase represented a sort-of second life beyond the career and after raising kids. It was a lighter, and perhaps more carefree lifestyle.
Dorothy and he became particularly fond of dancing and attending social events – of which there were many. Dr. Lyons was elected chairman of his condo (Stonebridge) owners association in Snowmass Colorado, where he and Dorothy frequently attended many dinners and gala party events.
These were also the “grandkid” years for Dr. Lyons. His sons, Bill, Greg, and Jon all had children of their own during these years. Big family trips to his “Lyons’ Den” beach house were common and ‘Grandpa Lyons’ delighted in having a full-house of his lineage at the oceanfront.
In addition to his medical career, Dr. Lyons was also an adventurer and accomplished pilot. He acquired over 4,000 hours as “pilot in command” of his own single-engine airplane while flying to numerous domestic and international locations, both for family vacations and business activities.
Consistent with his thirst for accomplishment, he continued to reach ever-higher levels of pilot certification, too. In the 1970s, he became both instrument and commercially rated.
His travels as a pilot took him on many notable trips – under all kinds of circumstances. These included frequent mountain flying ventures to Aspen, Lake Tahoe, and Vermont as well as to foreign locations such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and the Bahamas. And he often flew himself to many medical conventions in large cities across the U.S., from L.A. and San Francisco to Phoenix, Dallas, Minneapolis, New York, Atlanta, and Miami. Very often in later life, until he was 91, he would still fly regularly back and forth to Norfolk, VA to visit or maintain his beach house in Virginia Beach.
His love of flying also inspired two of his descendants to go on to aviation careers. Both his 2nd born son, Gregory and his grandson Billy became commercial pilots due in direct result to the exposure, inspiration, and instruction in flight bestowed upon them by Dr. Lyons.
He always had a passion for his “machines”, as he called them – like his airplanes. But he also had a love for his cars… and his motorcycles. And just as with his first car in high school – he took perfect care of them all.
As a very accomplished surgeon, pilot, and a good father, Dr. Lyons will always be well-remembered and admired.
But he also pursued other perhaps lesser-known recreational talents in snow skiing, tennis, some golf and musical interests in harmonica and banjo. He always seemed to be in the middle of everything.
In his later years, he became particularly fond of ballroom dancing and especially tap dancing
– and whether it was with his dance troupe the “Snappy Tappers” or on his own, he really liked to “put on a show”…..
At the end of his 95+ years, he had led a life well-lived, rich with accomplishment and enjoyment. And he will be greatly missed by his large family, his many friends, and colleagues.
Rest in Peace, William S. Lyons M.D……
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