Shared interests, religion forged a strong friendship

August 06, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." This continuing series will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Elly K. Lyon, who died July 26 at the age of 94. Her obituary appeared in the July 27 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Robert W. Rosen returned to the United States after eight years of traveling through Europe and Asia and just happened to settle into a country home near Smithsburg a few years ago.

A Reform Jew and former attorney for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., Bob had no links to Washington County so he called then-Rabbi Janice Garfunkel at Congregation B'nai Abraham with a special request.

"I wanted to see if there was someone she knew I could read to and enjoy classical music with," Bob said.


Without hesitation, Garfunkel suggested Elly K. Lyon, a widow with no children who was an Orthodox Jew living at Loyalton in Hagerstown.

"Janice introduced us and after a half hour, she said she knew that God had brought me to Elly," Bob said.

That first meeting led to a relationship that flourished until July 26, when Elly died at the age of 94. Their life experiences as well as their Judaism bound them through the years.

"Day by day, our relationship grew and evolved," Bob said as he began his adjustment to not seeing Elly every day. "I don't know if I could do that again."

But Bob's friend, Yvonne Ballard - a 30-year neighbor of Elly and her late husband, Dr. I.B. "Sonny" Lyon - said she believes Bob someday will find another person to befriend as he did Elly.

Yvonne's memories of Elly centered around neighborly interactions and a mutual love of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

"Elly would often come to our house and I remember she would never eat mayonnaise," Yvonne said. Very particular about her home and devout in her Orthodox Judaism, Elly had two kitchens - one for meat and one for dairy.

When they went to hear the Maryland Symphony Orchestra together, they always sat in the front row, Yvonne said.

A native of Austria, Elly was born in 1911 and immigrated to America with her mother, sister and a wet nurse so they could meet up with Elly's father, Meyer Koerner, a cantor with synagogues in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

"Elly was 23 years old when a doctor was summoned for her mother who was ill," Bob said. Though that doctor was older, Elly fell in love with him.

Ten years later, Elly wrote a note to that doctor. On their fourth date, Dr. I.B. Lyon proposed and they were married shortly after her graduation from nursing school in Philadelphia.

Married for 43 years, Elly often accompanied her husband on his medical rounds when he was superintendent of the Victor Cullen Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., and founding director of the Western Maryland State Hospital in Hagerstown.

"They would always have ice cream socials behind Western Maryland when Sonny was there," Yvonne said. Later, after Sonny passed away, Yvonne said she remembers Elly calling her on the telephone about Bob, the new friend she had met.

While she was living at Loyalton, Elly continued a weekly hair appointment and Bob always took her. They spent every Sabbath and religious holidays together.

"I cut out all the information on Israel from the newspapers for her because she loved Israel so much," Bob said. He did admit that in recent weeks, he had been censoring what he was showing and telling her about the current fighting in the Middle East.

Bob and Elly instead talked about their mutual interests in Europe and she told him stories of her childhood.

"I'm her historian," he said.

Bob said his relationship with Elly began as friendship.

"Later she was like a mother and then a sister and then a daughter to me," Bob said.

His grandparents died when he was too young to appreciate them.

"I met this lady and she loved me the way I needed to be loved," Bob said.

He admitted he'll never be the same again now that Elly is gone.

"But I'm not totally brokenhearted ... I'm serene," Bob said.

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