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Life Stories

Chuck Lyons

Chuck Lyons (1965 BA Literae Humaniores) died on 17 July 2023 aged  77.

Chuck arrived at Keble the son of an American diplomat brought up and educated in the British school system. He quickly made a mark with his dry sense of humour revelling in the absurdities of life, his good nature and his exhaustive collection of Beach Boys records. With diplomatic skill he stood for and won election as JCR President 1967/68. In that office he was consistently a sympathetic and supportive pillar for his fellow students. His contemporaries remember the generous and easy way Chuck effectively operated an open house in his presidential rooms for people to pop in, in particular those going through Schools coming back at lunch time to his room for a bit of relaxation to the sounds of Percy Sledge, The Four Tops or Wilson Pickett. He enlisted Spencer Barrett to write on his behalf, not seeking to avoid US military service, but to obtain a deferral until after graduation. Accordingly, Spencer wrote an extraordinarily “Oxford” letter quoting obscure statistics to the chairman of the Colonial Beach Draft Board and a deferral was granted.

After graduating he was eventually drafted and served two years in the US Army, first as a truck driver and then, on being found to have studied “languages” (Latin and Greek), he was put through an intensive course in Vietnamese. As a result his time in the war zone was quite short consisting, as he described it, of sitting in on interrogations conducted by local recruits whose command of the language and understanding of most of the military necessities was far greater than his. His one lasting benefit of service was the ability to sing “Old Macdonald had a farm” in Vietnamese which he could be prevailed upon to do at gatherings.

It is a tribute to his humanity that many years later on a visit to Vietnam he was accosted in the street and warmly welcomed by a Vietnamese who had worked with him during that time.

In 1976 he married Diana, adopted two children, Tom and Rachel, and later moved to Norfolk where he involved himself in the local community.

Even after his health started to deteriorate from 2015 he made it a point to continue to join contemporaries from Keble at the Varsity Match and the occasional lunches in London until a few months before his death.

Above all, he was one of the very few who had no enemies, not because he was a nonentity, but through being so positively a “good man”.

Kindly provided by Tony Hewlett (1964)