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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Artist, tourism promoter Vonnie Lyons dead at 71

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

KAILUA, KONA, Hawai'i — Kona tourism figure, artist and children's author Joan Yvonne "Vonnie" Lyons died Monday at Kona Community Hospital. She was 71.

Lyons, who lived in Honolulu and on Maui before moving to West Hawai'i 21 years ago, was the widow of Honolulu Advertiser cartoonist Harry Lyons, who died in 1989.

Aware she was dying of pancreatic cancer, Lyons attended a recent farewell gathering with close friends at the Kona Village Resort. A stroke last week left her in a coma, from which she never recovered, said longtime friend Pamela Parkhurst-Amaral.

She said Lyons was "totally in charge of her life" right up to the end and was glad she was given a chance to plan for her death.

"She was really looking forward to her next great adventure — (death)," said Sherry Bracken of the Kona Outdoor Circle, one of many organizations with which Lyons was involved.

She was born in Burbank, Calif., Dec. 6, 1929, and moved to Hawai'i in the 1950s. Lyons was executive director of Destination Kona Coast and previously worked 20 years with the now-defunct Keauhou Visitors Destination Association. She was a member of the Kailua Village Design Commission and had worked with the Hawai'i Visitors and Convention Bureau and for several developments in Kona and on Maui.

Bracken said Lyons "cared for the place she thought was the most beautiful on Earth and did something about it" by supporting outdoor plantings and fighting outdoor advertising.

Parkhurst-Amaral also recalled Lyons' passion for painting, noting her oil artworks were exhibited on several occasions.

In 1995, Lyons published "Keikilani, The Kona Nightingale," a children's book about a singing donkey that lived on the slopes of Hualalai Mountain. At the time of her death, she had completed a sequel, but plans for publishing it were not immediately known.

She also worked closely with her late husband during the six years they published his jocular magazine "Harry Lyons' Kona Coast."

She is survived by her son, Douglas Behrens of Honolulu, and two granddaughters.

Funeral arrangements are pending at the Kona branch of Dodo Mortuary Inc.