Paul Stuart Lyons

Paul Stuart Lyons

June 24, 1944 - August 14, 2012

Paul Stuart Lyons

June 24, 1944 - August 14, 2012


Paul Stuart Lyons was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota June 24, 1944. He died August 14, 2012 in his home in Laguna Niguel, California after a three-year bout with liver disease and cancer. Paul’s life will be celebrated in two services, one in California and one in Georgia.

The Laguna Niguel celebration will be on Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 4:00pm at his church home, Laguna Niguel Presbyterian. The address is 30071 Ivy Glenn Drive, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677. Everyone attending that service is invited to a reception following at Mangia Bene Cucina (Paul’s favorite local Italian restaurant), located at 27821 La Paz Road, Laguna Niguel. There will be a bit of a parking problem for the reception, so we encourage celebrators to double up on transportation. Additional suggestions will be made at the service.

The Georgia celebration, where most of Paul’s family lives, will be held on Saturday, September 15, 2012 at First Presbyterian Church of Marietta, 189 Church Street, Marietta GA 30060. Those services are not yet completely planned, but this notice will be updated as soon as possible.

In lieu of flowers, if you wish to honor Paul’s memory, please donate to his church or his pet non-profit organization. Addresses are below.

Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society (or just SPH&TS)
1523 Howard Access Road, Unit A
Upland, CA 91786
With a subject line of “Paul Lyons Memorial Library”
Laguna Niguel Presbyterian Church
30071 Ivy Glenn Drive
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
With a subject line of “Lyons memory’Pastor’s Discretionary Fund.”

Paul Stuart Lyons The Family Man

Paul’s parents, Joseph Homer Lyons (pure Irish) & Betty Jane Colby (Swedish) met when both served our country during WWII’he in the Marines and she in the Navy. Paul has fought an internal war with his dual nationality DNA forever. The stubborn Swede helped him work through the toughest tasks and the Irish charm got him into and out of sticky situations.

Paul had two constant loves throughout his life’architecture and trains. His grandfather (in Minnesota) was a mail handler “riding the rails” and Paul frequently got to ride along with “Bakin” and have the run of the train. When he was very young his family lived in Los Angeles and his treat was going to watch trains roar by. In the scheme of life it would seem fitting that his last major project was renovating an incredibly famous icon in Los Angeles’The Beverly Hills Hotel. A few years later they moved to El Paso, Texas and lived near a train station. Paul’s formative years were in Abilene, Texas where he graduated from Abilene High School. While Paul was a poor speller, he was an excellent writer’which may have begun when he was on the newspaper staff at his high school.

Paul was barely 17 in the fall of 1961 when he started architectural studies at the University of Minneapolis. As happens with so many students so young, he didn’t excel there. His parents had moved to Georgia, so he went south also and continued at Southern Technical Institute, a division of Georgia Tech in Marietta, Georgia. He earned associate degrees in building construction and architectural engineering. Paul advanced his career in architecture but worked all facets of the construction process.

Paul married Carole Cathey in June 1965 in Marietta, Georgia. Their daughter, Paula Carole Lyons Pass was born October 4, 1968 in Atlanta, Georgia. Paul and Carole were divorced in 1972. At this time Paul expanded his architectural career by moving to Dallas, Texas and began working with Harrell & Hamilton Architects (later Omniplan). Carole passed away in July of 2009.

Paul was in the Navy as a young married man. He was a Seabee, stationed in New Jersey for a while, and got a medical discharge when they discovered he had extremely flat feet. His heart’s desire was to be a Top Gun pilot, but he was much too tall at 6’2″.

Paul’s daughter Paula has lived in the Atlanta area most of her life but had a few years in West Texas which helped her better understand her father. She works in the financial planning industry and was divorced a few years ago. Paula blessed Paul with three wonderful grandchildren: Preston, at twenty years old, has just joined the Navy and is now stationed in San Antonio in a dental technician school. Eighteen-year-old Harris and Ansley Grace (15, going on 2 or 30’depending on the day and time) live with their mother in Roswell, Georgia.

Paul’s mother Betty Colby Lyons, age 94, lives in a senior apartment complex in Marietta, Georgia. His youngest sister JoMarie Lyons lives in Atlanta. The middle sister, Rozanne Lyons Wade also resides in Marietta. Rozanne and her husband David Wade have a son Philip and a daughter Mary’both of whom Paul was exceptionally fond. Rozanne and David also have their first grandchild; Philip and his wife Edyta are the parents of one-year-old Alex and live in Orlando. Mary is to be married in late August to Andrew Feske. Both sisters are medical professionals who were of constant help and support as Paul worked through the difficulties of his disease. They could explain medical events in engineering terms and help him understand what was happening.

Paul met his long-time companion and Best Friend, Dorothy Baker Screptock, in the spring of 1972 at the American Legion in Smyrna, Georgia, when Paul and his friends were discussing his upcoming divorce. Dorothy was a recent Army widow with four children and came to the Legion with a friend to play Bingo. They dated a few times, and she moved home to Texas after the school year ended. When architecture jobs were hard to find in Georgia, he followed her to Texas. He became a surrogate father to her children Michael, Steven, Scott and Lisa, ages 8 to 13 at that time.

Paul also embraced grandfather-hood of Dorothy’s four grandchildren, Melinda Holthus (newlywed), Larry, Laci and Sara (all Screptocks still). Melinda has given us three great-granddaughters: Jaidyn, Zooie, and CharLee. Laci blessed the family with her son Braylon’the fourth great-grandchild.

Paul Stuart Lyons, the Architect

No one is likely to debate that Paul Stuart Lyons had a forceful personality, a strong sense of right, and an adherence to professionalism and perfection in his work. His highest priority in life was his work. His standards were extremely high’one could even say ideal’and he expected the same from those with whom he worked’whether leaders, peers or followers. He was an integral part of building structures from the age of 22. He drew or built a wide range of structures. Some highlights from his career are:

“¢ Resident Architect on the Dallas Museum of Art, January 1981 to October 1983. Paul’s standards and adherence to specifications were never more evident than on this project. He had an uncanny ability to see in three dimensions what was on paper in two. He also could spot a mistake a long way off. The museum has a grand staircase in one end with a “view spot” on the landing. That was Paul’s favorite position from which to discover mess-ups and his booming voice could carry the length of the building to yell at somebody to check it out. Most of the workers loved him because he made them do a better job than they knew they thought they could. They soon made a sign and taped it on that railed stair landing dubbing it “Paul’s Pulpit.”

“¢ Associate Architect for Elfab Corporation in Lewisville, Texas 1983-84. While this was a filler job between the major projects, it was an interesting one. The company manufactured computer boards with intricate parts and pieces. Quality control was a very significant issue on the project due to the delicacy of the electronics and was probably the topic under discussion when Paul and the architect of record disagreed hugely and actually came to blows and moved the fight outside.

“¢ Quality Control Manager on the Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas October 1984 to August 1990. The architect on this project was the world-renowned I. M. Pei of New York. Paul worked for the contractor J. W. Bateson. Mr. Pei was very fond of Paul, and Paul was in awe of Mr. Pei. There are so many stories about Paul at the Meyerson, it’s hard to know where to begin. Probably his favorite is when he and the project partner from Pei’s office went to Italy to look at the Travertine marble for the lobby area. Paul had never traveled outside the continental US (except barely across the Texas border into Mexico). The partner George Miller speaks fluent Italian and is very polished. Anyone reading this knows Paul is pretty much the opposite and speaks only West-Texas English’a great deal like George W. Bush. There was a mixup in their hotel accommodations because of the time change and they wound up in sub-standard lodging. About midnight, when they’d nearly polished off a bottle of Courvoisier Paul was delighting in hanging out the window watching trains go by. “Mr. Smooth” (George Miller) said many times afterward that’s the least likely situation he would ever have imagined, but Paul was totally happy. Paul is featured in a number of places in a book about the construction of the Meyerson, and a couple of key players said the building would never have been built properly if it weren’t for Paul Lyons.

“¢ Four Seasons Aviara Resort Hotel, Carlsbad, California, September 1990 to April 1991. Paul actually worked on this project twice. He and Dorothy Screptock moved from Dallas to southern California for this job. Then Desert Storm occurred and the Japanese owners lost their funding for the project. Construction was suspended and Paul was without a job. He worked in Connecticutt and Florida in between. In 1996, Paul was hired by Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (now WATG and for whom he worked until his death) to finish that particular job as the onsite architect. He came back from “exile in Miami” where he was working to rebuild Dade County public schools after Hurricane Andrew had ripped up southern Florida.

“¢ Other WATG monuments (at least Paul considered all his buildings monuments):

o Venetian Resort & Casino, Las Vegas: Paul found this project both fascinating and troublesome after building lifetime complexes like the museum and symphony center in Dallas. He had a crash course in casino architecture and faux finishes. Vegas buildings are a lot like stage sets built for short-term use with an eye to “updating” the look fairly often. As casinos go, this was a great project and quickly gained prominence in the world of casinos. The Venetian has scale replicas of the Doge Palace, Ca’ d’Oro, Rialto Bridge, Campanile Tower, and Bridge of Sighs. There is a “Venetian” canal in the shopping promenade complete with gondolas and singing gondoliers. St. Mark’s Square is replicated and features fine dining and strolling opera singers. Paul and Dorothy lived in Vegas two years while Paul ran this job as onsite architect.

o Wynne Encore, Las Vegas: Paul had a team of seven onsite for nearly two years building Wynne’s second tower and casino expansion. It is beautifully built and a fine venue.

o Viceroy Anguilla Resort & Residences, Anguilla, British West Indies : Many will remember Paul traveling to the tropics once or twice a month for a couple of years to build a huge and prestigious property. Imagine combining a British government with an American architecture firm, a typically difficult contractor, and a labor force from India of long-term contracted workers (is indenture still in practice?). Place this activity on a basically non-commercialized 13-mile long island with no source of fresh water except rain or import and it could lead to disaster. It didn’t. Google the property name or go to their website

o Other Casinos:
“¢ Mohegan Sun’s Project Horizon, Uncasville, CT;
“¢ San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, Highland, CA
“¢ Tropicana Casino & Resort Expansion, Atlantic City, NJ
“¢ Spa Resort Casino, Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians, Palm Springs CA

o Other Hotels and Resorts:
“¢ Bardessono, Napa Valley, CA
“¢ Four Seasons Westlake, Westlake Village, CA
“¢ The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Torrey Pines, CA
“¢ Salamander Luxury Inn, Virginia
“¢ Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, Sacaton, AZ
“¢ Renaissance Hollywood Hotel (part of the Hollywood Highlands development which includes the nearby Kodak Theater).

o A really fun (and unusual undertaking for WATG) was a private residence for a Hollywood music icon whose groundbreaking-ceremony guests are Hollywood legends. The house was difficult to build, but the association with the project was great and the owner a warm and fascinating individual.

Paul wasn’t the only Texan at WATG, but he was always the loudest, most entertaining, and brashest they ever hired. And they loved him. Paul loved WATG equally much. In the 16 years with WATG, he never updated his resume or sought to leave’although he was occasionally offered some good deals. He loved what WATG stands for and he loved that WATG brought him back to California to do what he loves best’fine architecture. He mentored many of the younger staff and was discovered to be “a teddy bear” by staff members willing to learn his style and work up to his expectations. His communications style was very distinct. A company-wide list of “Paulisms” was maintained. The whole thing started when they were debating how to actually fulfill the contract on a job they were proposing. Paul ended the meeting by announcing, “Don’t worry about the mules. Just load the wagon.” The only time he got in real trouble with a Texasism/Paulism was when he put in a letter something about “That dog won’t hunt.” He meant the approach to the situation was indadequate. The female recipient of the letter thought he was calling her a dog. Bring on the PR people to do a fix!

Paul Stuart Lyons – Hobbies and interests

Dorothy Screptock says Paul’s priorities through most of her 40-year relationship with him’in order of importance’were (1) work, (2) trains or his daughter and mother (they seesawed for dominance at varying times), and (3) Dorothy and the Screptock kids. While always a Christian, Paul never took time to study and learn to love the Lord until the last years of his life. His battle with disease and cancer slowed down his work activity and he used the time gained to become a student of the Bible. Just as in his other commitments in life, his devotion to The Lord was real and strong. He became a member of Laguna Niguel Presbyterian Church after he and Dorothy moved to Orange County and it was his association with the pastor Randy Steele and the congregation’especially the 6:30am Wednesday mornings men’s group’that helped him through those difficult last months of his life.

Paul liked all sports but especially basketball and Nascar races. He watched the history and discovery channels mostly when he didn’t have on the news or a sports broadcast. He lived in a non-fiction world’always preferring facts and keeping stuff black and white, never reading novels and rarely watching a movie. Paul was a serious contender in golf beginning playing in high school and college. He caddied throughout and probably enjoyed most golfing and caddying at the Marietta Country Club. At one time he says he had a handicap of five. He used the same hand/eye coordination to be a top competitor in darts when living in Fort Worth and Dallas. He helped lead his dart team to the A League City-Wide Championship in Fort Worth in the mid 70s. He rarely talked about his childhood and told Dorothy recently he barely remembers it. While he loved to study history, he lived in and embraced the present.

Paul loved cars, but they were not an obsession. He wrecked a Triumph TR4 in Atlanta (early 70s) before moving to Texas and bought a Fiat 124 just before heading west. In Fort Worth, he bought another Triumph TR6 that he and Dorothy (and her sons) rebuilt together. Dorothy had a 70 Triumph GT6+ which was restored by her son a few years ago and became a prized possession. Then came the 1976 Vette’one of Paul’s other major loves.

While Paul was a high achieving employee, he often embodied the “eccentric” in his personal life. Paul bought a two year old silver Corvette in 1978. Sometime in the 80s, he knocked a chunk out of the front driver side fiberglass fender. Dorothy patched it with cardboard for shaping and silver duct tape to hold it in place. He drove it that way (with frequent “repairs” to freshen up the tape) for a LONG time; it actually became a Dallas legend. You only had to see the duct tape on the car and not the car itself to know it was Paul. At the Meyerson jobsite they began to call it the “OuchMobile” and some clever person actually painted that on during one of its duct-tape incarnations. The real repair was never done until Paul was exiled (by the poor economy) to Miami. Since he was bored, he began restoring the Vette to its former excellence including a beautiful paint job. The day before he was returning to California, he had the car carefully parked in a corner spot where no other cars could ding the new paint job when he went to work. Lo and behold, a Cadillac and an 18-wheeler collided in the intersection which sent the 18-wheeler sideways through that corner fence and the Vette was murdered’all four tires aiming in four different directions. Talk about grieving!!! It was two years later before Paul bought a replacement 1974 all original’also silver’which he never liked as much as the 76.

As Dorothy said, Paul’s number two/three priority in life was trains. He was a very serious railroad fan probably due to that early exposure with his grandfather. He joined the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society (SPH&TS) about 25 years ago and was elected to their Board of Directors in 2004. He served as Vice President from 2006 to 2009 when he became President. He resigned a couple months ago when his health suddenly declined. Paul dedicated the same energy and pressure for excellence to his leadership of the Society.

In addition to amassing a considerable personal collection of HO-scale railroad model cars, engines, and kits (most of it Southern Pacific related), he built a 1000+ volume library’which he specified be donated to the SPH&TS when he knew his days were numbered. He collected thousands of photos and slides, railroad memorabilia, maps, diagrams, etc. He was a master-level builder of plastic and resin HO scale railroad car kits. He has been a patron of his favorite railroad artists: Rod Aszman, Larry Fisher, and John Winfield. He commissioned a couple of original watercolors by the beloved Ernie Towler.

Secondary collections were railroad and airline playing cards. eBay and antique shops were goldmines in this area for a while. He also got into collecting matchbooks starting with railroad items and branching out in several directions. They are stored in a fireproof safe to keep from burning the house down accidentally.

For most of his life, Paul also loved his alcohol. He stopped smoking when his dad died of lung cancer in 1983. Recently, he wished he had given up drinking as well. He always knew it could lead to liver disease (cirrhosis) but didn’t really know about the deadliness of liver cancer until 2007 when a specialist told him to “Stop drinking or you will die. Your liver will try to regenerate itself. It will grow healthy cells, but it may grow abnormal cells as well. You may get cancer.” After that day, Paul had two glasses of Pinot Noir. One was to celebrate his daughter’s divorce and another to celebrate his daughter’s new job. He wished the world could be better educated of the danger that heavy drinking may lead to many severe maladies’worst of all the deadly liver cancer’and of the very dear price the entire family endures because of it. He didn’t know whether the knowledge would have changed his habit, but he liked to think it would.

Paul was very fortunate in that he had superb health care at Cedars Sinai Hospital after his cancer was diagnosed. He was strong and healthy otherwise and was able to work until a few weeks before his death. He had a liver transplant in January 2011 but unfortunately the cancer had already metastasized and his compromised immune system (required to keep from rejecting the transplant) limited his body’s ability to fight back against the cancer.

Paul was loved by most, disliked by a few, and probably actually hated by some. There’s no question he “cut a wide path” as he moved through life and he most assuredly made his mark in this world’there was never a question on where he stood when making a decision. He was often described as “bigger than life” and “a force of nature” and doubtlessly less kind clichés. It’s doubtful anyone who ever met him will forget him. And he will be sorely missed by many, many friends, train nuts, work associates, drinking buddies (from the older days), and neighbors. He leaves behind two large families who loved him. And Dorothy Screptock says she will miss him every day of the rest of her life. She and his best friend Paul Koehler (a long time friend from the train society) have cried and laughed together daily as Paul made weekly treks from Pasadena to Laguna Niguel to support Paul through his last few weeks and to smooth the way for Dorothy’s transition to the next stage in her lifestyle.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Be happy with Jesus, Paul. He loved you the most.

No Events & Services

No Charities & Donations

No Gallery Photos

No Videos

6 responses to Paul Stuart Lyons

  1. I want to visit our web site things about it!

Leave A Condolence

Choose a Candle