Gerald Boland went first to the Lyons Elementary School the night of the flood to unlock the door and turn on the lights. Then he left to find his wife. He was stolen away by the flood waters as he crossed the Highway 36 bridge.
LaVern Johnson, president of the Lyons Historical Society, wanted to make sure he was honored and not forgotten. She not only wanted his “2013 flood” death commemorated, but she knew of his great influence on the school kids of Lyons. She doggedly pursued this, including pushing the Lyons elementary school and SVVSD school district to do something. She initially hoped that they could rename the school after him, and even passed around a petition for people to sign. But regulations prohibited a school being named after an individual. She also tried to get the street renamed, but the whole five blocks had to remain “High Street.”
She was glad to see that finally there was agreement to get the “bus driveway” named after him, plus a sandstone monument with inscription, and a sandstone bench placed on the lawn between the Elementary School and the Library. She wrote to daughter Amy, “We were surprised and glad the town was having so much of the Flood Anniversary, with tributes to your dad, Monday and Thursday, so we cut back on our plans, and decided to have the Flood stories, the Flood Display, and view the Flood video. We will read your mother’s story during the flood stories, and invite you to come, if you can. And the newspaper editor said they will include a photo of him.”
For the dedication ceremony, many of his past students attended and told heartfelt, glorious stories about how he had influenced them in their lives, beyond being a teacher and sports coach. During the five year anniversary ceremony, a tree was planted in his memory in Bohn Park. This year, at the 10 year anniversary ceremony on Sunday, September 10, 2023, a speaker told his story, and more than a dozen of his family members watched as a tree was planted in Sandstone Park to commemorate his life.
My Flood story – Gerald “Sonny” Boland, by Cheron Boland
September 12, 2013 – It was raining hard. At 2:30am the horns came up the canyon announcing that a flood was coming and to evacuate immediately. I took the car and Sonny took his truck and we headed to Holli’s house in Hygiene. But…Lyons was completely shut off by the water and we could not get out of town. After turning around, I parked in the Outlaw parking lot and Sonny went to the elementary school shelter. In all of the chaos we lost sight of each other.
Eventually I went to the school but I didn’t see his truck (I found out later that he had left the shelter and had also gone back home to look for me but was swept up in the flood) I tried to drive back home through the water to look for him. My car quit in the high water and I was stalled for a very long time waiting for help. Finally, my hero’s, Evan Patronik and Rusty Ribble got to me in a back loader. They put a life jacket on me, put me in the scoop and drove me to the shelter where I waited all day on Thursday.
Thursday evening Lonna and Ken Cinnamon came to the shelter to pick me up and took me to their house to spend the night. Friday the National Guard truck took me to Lifebridge Church where the kids picked me up. We made a headquarters at Holli’s house where we waited for any news from Sonny. The kids checked all of the evacuation shelters but he was not at any of them.
Monday September 16th they found his truck and on Wednesday September 18th they found his life jacket several doors down from our neighborhood. On Thursday September 19th his body was discovered another half mile down the river.
There were around 1,000 people who attended his memorial service – students and friends from as far away as Atlanta and California were in attendance. There was such an outpouring of love and support from the community and for that I will always be grateful.
On the 1 year anniversary of the flood/his death the school district and town of Lyons, with the help of the Lyons Historical Society, dedicated a memorial stone and bench in front of the Elementary school where he taught for 30 years. They also named the School bus lane “Boland Lane”. That means the world to us.
Boulder County bought my land and it is now open space. I have not been back up the canyon since they tore the house down. We lived there for 52 years.
I moved to Hover Manor in January of 2014 and my cat Scooter came with me. She survived several days in our flooded home on the top shelf of the closet before being rescued. She died Christmas day 2016 at the age of 19. Scooter used way, way more than her 9 lives!
I have a nice apartment and many friends at Hover Manor but I miss Lyons and all of my friends there.
I am very thankful to have my 3 kids close by. They have been so supportive to me.
It has been a very tragic ordeal. God Bless my friends and family.
NOTE: See “10 year Flood Remembrance Ceremony” for information on the tree planted on September 10, 2023 in memory of Gerald Boland. ARTICLE