—–ex-Mayor Kris Hicar– (2008)—–
Lavern’s commitment to the town of Lyons was extraordinary. She is and always will be an example of what volunteering and participating in your community is all about. Her passion for Lyons is something I’ve never encountered in any other person. Lavern’s heart was invested in preserving the history of Lyons. She knew every person who lived in Lyons and had an impact on the future of the town. Try showing me anyone else who would sit through thousands of meetings or go to every single school concert or sporting event, which did not include their own child–just to be there, to record what happened, and who contributed to the event?
Her museum in the old high school in front of the elementary school is a place of wonder. We’ve all walked by asking ourselves what the heck could possible be in there? If you haven’t visited it yet–go. There you’ll see what the value of taking all those notes, knowing who did what and when, and the impact the past has on the future of Lyons. That museum truly hold’s Lavern’s love for our town.
I was lucky enough to be on the town board with her and an assortment of committees. While mayor, she was priceless, answering questions, or correcting mistakes I had made or failed to mention.
She shared plenty of wisdom about raising her boys with me and helped me discover, what I do in the moment, while sitting in that seat with a gavel in my hand–can impact the future of the town and the people in it for decades; from Parks and Rec to the town board, she always had something to say or consider when a decision or vote needed to be made.
She even tried to teach Scott and I how to sashay and do-si-do at a square dancing lesson she insisted we take. You never said no to Lavern. But the most valuable lesson Lavern taught me is that passion for where you live is not a bad thing. Volunteering can make a difference and investing time in your community is never time wasted.
…………….Kris Hicar, ex-Mayor (2008), Town Trustee from 2002 to 2008
—-ex-Mayor Julie VanDomelen– (2009-2014)—-
I had the pleasure of serving with Lavern on the Town Board and worked with her on many town issues. Lavern was extraordinary, an inspiration and one of the women I have most admired in my life. Many people know of her love for Lyons and her complete commitment to this special place. It wasn’t a Town event if Lavern wasn’t there. When she finally retired from the Town Board we had a special chair made for her in the front row, because whether she was in the audience or on the dais, she rarely missed a meeting. And for her, the motivation was really just about loving this place.
Lavern had some truly rare and special qualities. In a small town where people often judge belonging by how long you have lived here, Lavern was incredibly welcoming to newcomers. While her family, the McConnells, have deep roots here and she presided over the keeping of Lyons history, she was the first to want to get to know a new family. And, when she wrote you up in her Around Lyons insert in the local newspaper, you knew you were welcomed.
Above all, Lavern was a do-er. If you wanted something for Lyons she would tell you to just go write a grant. I remember the time she broke her femur on an uneven sidewalk at the history museum. I went over to the hospital in Longmont to check in on her. She reminded me of a grant deadline that was looming and sent me back to Lyons to pick up papers. I came back to the hospital and we put that grant together in her hospital room, leg immobilized, no doubt in pain, but making sure we got that proposal out on time. There are so many things we take for granted in Lyons that might not have happened but for her can-do attitude, from the purchase of Meadow Park (aptly renamed after her) to the Lyons Historical Museum. She was also a fierce protector of Lyons, from the fight with St Vrain Valley School District to keep Lyons schools here during a time of consolidation discussions, to the prevention of the Coffin top dam above Lyons.
For someone who was involved in local politics, which can get ugly, Lavern never held a grudge. I never once saw her disrespect a colleague or a citizen, even when she disagreed with them. She had an incredible ability to just focus on what was best for Lyons, speak her peace, and get on with it.
Lavern had stamina. My husband Joseph and I once took Lavern with us for a reception at the Governor’s residence in Denver. It was a hot afternoon and it was a garden party in the sun, standing for hours. As we left Denver in the evening, Lavern asked us to drop her off at a square dance off Colfax avenue and someone would give her a ride back to Lyons. I remember laying down exhausted and dehydrated at 11:00pm and thinking, wow Lavern is still dancing right now.
It is hard to imagine Lyons without Lavern. Even in her last week, when we went over for a visit, she has as she had always been, interested to hear what was going in Lyons, laughing her deep laugh, and showing how much she loved people by the interest she took in you and your family.
When I think of a life well lived, I think of Lavern. I thank her for all she did for me, my family, and our community. She was deeply loved.
……………….ex-Mayor Julie VanDomelen (2009-2014)
—–ex-Mayor John O’Brien (2014-2016)—-
Even though we all knew her demise was inevitable, we all hoped it would happen “later”.
It was my pleasure to know and work with her as a board of trustees member as well as a fellow member of the Lyons Economic Development Commission. She always had the good of Lyons uppermost.
I will miss her. We all will miss her. Her legacy will be people like yourself who worked closely with and learned so much from her.
Thanks again for thinking of me. I will mourn Lavern’s passing with you and everyone who knew her kind regards,
………………….. ex-mayor John O’Brien (2014 to 2016); Chair, Lyons Economic Development Commission; President, Lyons Area Chamber of Commerce; Chair, Lyons Economic Gardening Group (LEGG); Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC).
—-ex-Mayor Connie Sullivan– (2016-2020)—-
My first encounter with LaVern was in 2010, about a year after moving to Lyons. My husband, Neil, and I had purchased the dilapidated St. Vrain Market, and we were anxious to share our plans for improving the store with the community. We didn’t know very many people in town at the time and it came as a bit of a surprise when we heard that Mrs. LaVern was not happy with our plan to paint over an old mural on the side on the building. The “Coca-Cola/ space odyssey” themed mural was the work of a several decades old high-school art class and our plans to re-paint did not sit well with the town “boss”. Eventually, Mrs. LaVern lamented, and the mural was re-done, but we learned an important lesson in the process. Small town landmarks are meaningful and represent previous efforts to create a sense of community, therefore be thoughtful and sensitive to how others view your idea of progress.
My next opportunity to really get to know Mrs. LaVern came through my time serving on the Board of Trustees, and eventually as Mayor of Lyons. I consider it one of my highest honors to have sat next to Mrs. LaVern during my first term on the board. I learned from LaVern that no matter how complicated an issue might seem, the right answer is usually within grasp if you put the people first. LaVern was fiercely protective of her town and the people in it – especially the kids. She was the town’s best and most effective advocate when it came to funding for schools, streets, and her beloved parks. I tried to carry the lessons I learned from Mrs. LaVern through to my own actions as a Trustee and as Mayor. When faced with a difficult question, I would think about Mrs. LaVern and usually the answer would come into focus. The most important lessons I learned from Mrs. LaVern are that creating a successful community requires respecting and accepting each other’s vision for what Lyons is – and should be. And, that those who show up and are willing to do the work decide which direction things go. The rest, LaVern would say, “should get out of the way.”
…………………ex-Mayor Connie Sullivan (2016-20)
—- current Mayor Hollie Rogin —-
LaVern Johnson’s life is an example of true community-centered public service. While we’ve lost our matriarch, we can all honor her memory each time we contribute our time, our talents, and our treasure to work for the good of our town.
My favorite encounter with LaVern was at one of the last square dances at Oskar Blues prior to Covid. I asked Lavern to partner with me. I was and still am pretty inexperienced but love square dancing. She said yes and took the male part. I figured she’d be frail and that we’d have to take it easy. Boy, was I wrong about that! LaVern grabbed me by the arms and led me so forcefully that I thought I might have bruises! She was no-nonsense and let me know when I messed up, but took genuine delight in my progress when I finally started to get the steps right. I never underestimated her strength again.
I take comfort in knowing the Johnsons will be watching over our town. May we all aspire to fill their shoes!
……………….Hollie Rogin, current Mayor, April 2022, PCDC 2019-2020, Trustee 2020-2022
All past mayors are invited to contribute to this column. The Lyons Recorder has made its best effort to contact them, and requested a submission.