Thomas Lyon

Obituary of Thomas Lynn Lyon

CAMBRIDGE - Thomas L. Lyon, age 80, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend died on March 8 at his home from acute myeloid leukemia and complications from his treatments.


He is survived by his wife, Barbara, son Jeff (Karen), daughter Melissa (Steve) Duin, son Scott, grandchildren Megan Lyon, Nick Lyon, Alyson Duin and Brayton Duin. He is further survived by his sister-in-law Margaret (Howard) Lyon and numerous nieces and nephews. 


Preceding him in death were his parents Earl and Nellie Lyon, brother Howard Lyon, brother Durward Lyon (Carolyn), brother G. Joe Lyon (Norma) and a cousin, William Zmolek (Jean) who lived with the family while he was growing up and whom he considered a brother, and two infant sons.  


Born September 12, 1940 in Toledo, Iowa,  Dad was raised on a dairy farm and graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Dairy Science.  Rather than joining his father and brothers Howard and Joe, in the farming partnership, Lyon Jerseys, dad pursued a different career path and made his mark in the dairy cattle breeding business.


In 1967 he accepted a marketing/communications position with Midwest Breeders Cooperative in Shawano, WI.  He was promoted several times over the years and retired in 2002 as the CEO of Cooperative Resources International, the result of the merger of several dairy cattle breeding cooperatives and milk testing services.  In his time there, he led a regional dairy cattle breeding cooperative to become one of the largest dairy cattle breeding cooperatives in the world.


Dad was a life-long agriculturalist whose main interest was the well-being of farmers, especially dairy farmers, and their rural communities.  However, he was not content to only manage the cattle breeding cooperative.  He gave his time and talents to many efforts to benefit the dairy industry and rural Wisconsin.  He received many honors from fellow agriculturalists and farmers,  Honors that held extra special meaning to him were Guest of Honor, National Dairy Shrine, National Cooperative Business Hall of Fame, Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame, and Honorary Doctorate Degree, University of Wisconsin- Madison.


His other passion was education and the importance of higher education opportunities especially for kids from farms and rural areas.  His interest in education and support from friends and colleagues gave him the opportunity to serve on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents from 1986-1993 and serve as its president from 1990-1992.


Outside of his work, dad enjoyed golfing for relaxation.  For many years, dad and mom had a condo in Door County and were members of the Peninsula State Park golf course.  He and mom were long-time season ticket holders for Wisconsin football and enjoyed taking friends and family to games.  The fate of Wisconsin sports teams, (college and professional) and Iowa State were part of many conversations with dad.          


Upon his retirement from Cooperative Resources International, dad and mom moved to Cambridge, to connect with friends in the Madison area.  Moving to Cambridge also made it much easier for them to attend their grandkids activities in Middleton and Onalaska.  He and mom joined the Lake Ripley Country Club in Cambridge where they made many new friends and golfing companions.


Mom and family meant everything to dad.  He and mom were true partners with their love starting as high school sweethearts.  They celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary in June 2020.  With respect to family whether immediate or extended, he emphasized staying in touch, getting together as often as possible, and supporting each other especially when the family was facing some adversity.  


While living in Wisconsin provided dad with an opportunity to pursue his dreams, make a comfortable living, build lasting friendships in and outside of agriculture, and a chance to enjoy many of the state’s amenities, his heart was never too far away from his home state of Iowa.  Those that knew him well heard many times about the “farm kid from Iowa.”


A private mass will be held on March 12 at St. Pius X Church in Cambridge, WI.  There will be a prayer service on March 13 at 11:30 am at St Patrick Catholic Church, in Tama, Iowa followed by burial at the St. Patrick Catholic Church cemetery.  A celebration of dad’s life will be held in the Madison area at a later date when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.


In lieu of flowers, dad requested that contributions be made to the Thomas and Barbara Lyon endowed scholarship fund at Iowa State University, the Thomas and Barbara Lyon endowed scholarship fund at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the scholarship fund of the National Dairy Shrine, Rainbow Hospice, or a local nonprofit of their choice.


Our family extends our deepest appreciation to Rainbow Hospice and Home Instead for the exceptional care they provided dad.


Nitardy Funeral Homes, Cambridge, and Kruse-Phillips Funeral Homes, Tama, IA are assisting the family.


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Thomas Lyon, please visit Tribute Store
A Memorial Tree was planted for Thomas
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Nitardy Funeral Home - Cambridge
Share Your Memory of