Michael Lyons, a longtime city worker and former civil-rights activist, died June 24 after a long battle with metastatic prostate cancer. He was 66.
Lyons, a native of Rochester, N.Y., was born March 31, 1943.
He moved to Philadelphia in the late 1960s after graduating from college in the Midwest, and also lived for a time in Wilmington, Del., where he served in the Volunteers in Service to America, the predecessor of AmeriaCorps, lending his time to anti-poverty efforts.
Bob Kahn, Lyons’ friend of 30 years, said he was very active in the civil-rights movement of the ’60s and was not afraid to stand up for others. He was arrested numerous times — once in Elkton, Md., while protesting the segregation of lunch counters at Woolwoorth’s, and twice while demonstrating against the Vietnam War in Delaware.
Lyons started working as a social worker with the City of Philadelphia in 1969, a position he held until 1995.
Florence Pisciotta, his friend of nearly 40 years, said he was a “very fair person” and a tireless advocate for the poor and underprivileged, attributes that aided him in his field.
Throughout the ’70s, he held bartending positions at the Westbury and now-defunct Allegro and was a server and bartender at former restaurant Backstage.
Peter Lamlein, co-owner of Backstage, said Lyons was a hard worker who interacted well with the customers.
“He was great, very easygoing and laidback,” Lamlein said. “He was a very personable person who always made people feel comfortable and at home.”
Pisciotta said Lyons, an avid reader and antique collector, was the type of person who could always get a laugh out of his friends.
“He was a very charming, very amusing person,” she said. “He was always entertaining us and is going to really be missed by our group of friends.”
Kahn said that throughout Lyons’ more-than-10-year fight with cancer, he rarely asked his friends for help and, when he did, he made his gratitude known.
“On the 22nd I was up in Philly to visit him and he had a couple other friends over, and it was really the first time he ever asked us to do anything for him,” Kahn said. “He lived on his own and always took care of himself, but we did some laundry and put away some clothes. And the next day he called to say that he was in hospice and thanked me for helping and apologized if he was bossy at all the night before. And then he died the next day.”
Lyons is survived by his brother, David Lyons, several nieces and nephews and a large circle of friends.
A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. July 22 at St. Malachy’s, 1429 N. 11th St.
Donations can be made in Lyons’ name to The Prostate Cancer Foundation at www.prostatecancerfoundation.org or by mail to 1250 Fourth St., Santa Monica, CA 90401.