Obituary: Cassie Lyon / Organist, volunteer and good friend

Sept. 2, 1932 - Oct. 23, 2013

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Cassie Lyon was a musician by trade and a citizen by calling.

She served as the organist and choir director at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church and assistant music director at Third Presbyterian Church in Shadyside, but Mrs. Lyon was not limited to those important roles for her community. Her generosity spread as a volunteer and devoted board member of the Program for Female Offenders.

Mrs. Lyon of Longwood at Oakmont in Plum died Wednesday from a sudden illness. She was 81.

Born in Pittsburgh, Mrs. Lyon studied at what is now Chatham University, earning a master of fine arts in music. She would become the first full-time organist and choir director at Fox Chapel Presbyterian. While working at Third Presbyterian, she met her longtime friend Joanne Rogers, wife of the late WQED personality Fred Rogers, who joined the choir.

"She was one of the brightest people I ever knew. She was bright, and she had a wonderful energy," said Mrs. Rogers.

Their friendship expanded beyond the church to the Program for Female Offenders. Mrs. Lyon was president of the board and an active volunteer at the organization serving incarcerated people, and recruited Mrs. Rogers to the board, too.

Mrs. Lyon received the Outstanding Citizen award from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and WTAE-TV in 1993 for her work with the program.

"This was a major, major part of her life, and she went over and beyond the call of duty, in getting as involved as she legally could with people there. She was wonderful, she gave herself, she gave so much of herself to that," said Mrs. Rogers.

A Post-Gazette article on the award described that level of commitment. "She visited women at the jail, heard their screams and wails in the closet-size cells, saw that their showers are on public view, asked them what they needed and, often, supplied it: fresh fruit, Kleenex, stamps and stationery or just the patience for listening," wrote Diana Nelson Jones.

Then-Allegheny County Commissioner Tom Foerster said in the article, "She's a dynamo. When the Post-Gazette honors her, you are honoring someone who in my estimation is great."

Mrs. Rogers said that Mrs. Lyon also played organ on "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" on one occasion "to demonstrate the organ, because she was such a good organist."

On another occasion, when the Lyons put their house up for sale and it sold quickly, they needed a place to stay. The Rogers welcomed them to their home, where the two families lived for a while -- Mrs. Rogers didn't remember exactly how long.

Between the two families, they had four boys around the same age. "It was a wonderful period of time, just fabulous," said Mrs. Rogers.

They took turns with the cooking, and when Mrs. Rogers' father passed away in Florida, "Cassie just stepped to the fore. She said, 'Go, just go right now. Things are going to be fine here.' Well, of course, I knew they would."

She is survived by her husband, Richard; two sons, Stuart of Chicago and Richard Jr. of Pittsburgh; and two grandchildren. A memorial service will take place Saturday at 2 p.m. in the chapel of Longwood at Oakmont, 500 Route 909, Plum.


Elizabeth Bloom: ebloom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750.

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