Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ted Lyons, neighborly as can be

By Will Bublitz

Ted Lyons has overcome the challenge of a disability to build a life that’s included years of service to the local community, success in business and the friendship of many residents of Lincoln County.

Confined to a wheelchair for most of his adult life, Ted has not let that slow him down. In January, he completed his third term as a Lincoln County Commissioner. He chose not to run for re-election last year.

“I really appreciate that our residents gave me the opportunity to be their commissioner for the past 12 years,” he said. “I also want to thank the people of Lincoln County for helping me along the way.”

Born in Hugo in 1948, Ted was raised by his parents Walter and Mary Lyons on their family farm north of Hugo. He was one of six children. His brother Bill and his wife Mimi still live southeast of Hugo, while his other brother Dick and his wife Julia are Limon residents. Three of his siblings – Madonna, Bob and Jerry – are now deceased.

As he was growing up, Ted attended the Genoa School until the sixth grade before transferring to the Hugo School. During high school, he was active in sports competing in football, basketball and wrestling. He was a member of the Pirates’ eight-man football team that won the state championship title two years in a row.

After graduating in 1966, Ted was looking forward to furthering his education, but then tragedy struck. He and three friends were injured in an auto accident near Agate after the driver lost control and the vehicle rolled. One died as the result of his injuries. Ted was thrown from the vehicle and fractured several bones including three vertebrae.

“When I was in the emergency room, I don’t remember much except the priest giving me the last rites,” he said. “I spent 118 days in the hospital at Swedish Medical Center, then St. Anthony’s and finally Craig Rehab. One doctor told me I might live five more years. That was about 50 years ago, so I guess I fooled him. But I am lucky to be alive.”

The injuries to his spine left Ted paralyzed from the waist down. He was mostly confined to a wheelchair, but was able to move around using crutches and leg braces.

“After I was released from Craig Rehab, I went home and felt sorry for myself for about a year and a half,” Ted said.

After enduring that emotional low point, Ted finally decided it was time to get on with his life. He enrolled at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling where he studied business and earned an Associate of Arts degree.

Seeking employment, Ted accepted a job as a dispatcher with the Eastern Slope Telephone Association which is headquartered in Hugo.

“I started that job in October 1972 and stayed with Eastern Slope Telephone for 30 years,” he said. “The first 10 years I was a dispatcher, and the last 20 years I was the supervisor in charge of installation and repair.”

Also in 1972, Ted and his brother Bill went into the cattle business together.

“Bill and I eventually ran 400 to 500 head of cattle,” Ted said. “We sold out to Bill’s son Tony about four years ago.”

That was not his only business venture. In the 1980s, he went into partnership with his friend Gary Schafer to buy the Hugo post office building.

“We rented that building to the U.S. Postal Service for about 20 years before we sold it to a new owner,” Ted said. “Gary, Gordon Hollowell and I then formed a partnership to buy the car wash in Limon and we built the U-Lock-It Storage Rentals right next to it. We also built rental storage sheds in Hugo and Flagler. Gordon and I bought out Gary in the 1990s.”

Ted and Gordon Hollowell have remained business partners to the present day.

“We also bought the Plains Bar on Hugo’s main street several years ago,” Ted said. “I’m still partner in the bar with Gordon, Nancy and April Hollowell.”

Ted ascribes his success in these business ventures to the partnerships he formed.

“I’ve had some luck,” he said. “I was lucky to be partners with Gary and Gordon who are two outstanding businessmen.”

Having achieved success in his career with Eastern Slope and his business investments, Ted decided he wanted to do something to help improve the local community. He did it by becoming a member of the Board of Directors of the Lincoln Community Hospital in the 1990s and served on it for eight years.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that I was instrumental in the hiring of Herman Schreivogel as the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer,” Ted said. “Lincoln Community Hospital was just about to close its doors because of its bad financial situation, but Herman was able to turn it around.”

After retiring from Eastern Slope Telephone in 2002, Ted decided he wanted to do more to help the local area.

“I was asked if I was interested in running for county commissioner and I said I would give it a try,” he said. “I ran and won in the November 2002 election. I ran twice more and was re-elected in 2006 and 2010. I served for 12 years, and I think I’ve done some good.”

In addition to conducting the county government’s regular business and ensuring residents received necessary county services, Ted said he is proud of his work with Commissioners Steve Burgess and Gary Beedy on the improvements to the Lincoln County Courthouse in Hugo.

“The new courthouse was built in 1990, but it had a lot of structural problems that had to be dealt with,” he said. “We put in wind bars on the courthouse’s metal roof, and had lots of insulation and new windows installed. It’s a much better building today.”

 Another area of pride was his work as a commissioner in the development of wind energy farms in northern Lincoln County, as well as the ongoing boom in oil and gas development within the county.
“With wind energy and oil development, our county revenues went from $1.5 million to more than $6 million over the last four to six years,” Ted said. “We told the oil people and wind farm developers that we’d help them if we could. As a county, we were blessed to have this development, especially during the recession.”

During his 12 years as a Lincoln County Commissioner, Ted was the board’s chairman for four of those years.

“I really enjoyed being a commissioner,” he said. “But about six years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The shaking is mostly in my right hand, but when I’m stressed or get angry which happened fairly often as a commissioner, it made it worse. Parkinson’s is progressive disease, so I decided not to run for re-election again.”

With the end of his term of office in January, Ted is now looking forward to retirement. To help with it, he and Gordon Hollowell have decided to sell off their car wash and rental storage facility in Limon.

“Once we sell them off, I’ll be able to afford to spend the winters somewhere where it’s warm down south,” he said. “The older I get, the less I like the snow and cold here. Where I’ll be spending the winters, I haven’t decided yet. My plan is to tie a snow shovel to the front of my car and keep driving south until the locals I meet don’t know what it is, and that’s where I’ll stop.”

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