Mary Lynne (Houghtaling) Lyons, Matriarch of the Lyons' family and "Sheriff" of the storied Mape's Ranch in west Modesto, passed peacefully in her home surrounded by her loving family on Saturday, September 18, 2021.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on December 2, 1929 to parents Andrew Lyn and Louise Marie (O'Keefe) Houghtaling, Mary was the youngest of four daughters. She loved and adored her sisters. She was pre-deceased by her sisters Helen Duncan and Martha Calvert, and is survived by her sister Betty Spencer, who is 97. Mary was affectionately nicknamed "Jake" by her father, and was the apple of her dad's eye. She was a tomboy and could often be found fishing, golfing or helping her dad at his hardware store. With her dad's store, Mary was the first to have the newest ice-skates and spent many hours jumping and twirling around many of Minnesota's "10,000 lakes" and ice rinks.
Raised in Minnesota, Mary graduated from Blue Earth High School. Her high-school summer job was always at "Jolly Green Giant" (where she socialized more than she worked!) and worked alongside future Vice President of the United States, Walter "Fritz" Mondale, who became a life-long friend. She then attended the University of Iowa, but missing her beloved state she transferred to the University of Minnesota.
After college, Mary met the love of her life, William (Bill) Lyons, Sr. They were married in 1949, and Bill took his young bride out west to California. On their honeymoon, they stopped for a visit at Bill's Uncle E.T. (Ed) Mape's 10,000-acre ranch and were asked to come back and take over managing the ranch.
"Life on the Ranch" for a small-town mid-western girl was quite an adjustment for Mary. She went from having the latest appliances and gadgets that made life easier, to the wild west – amongst the ranch's one-ton bulls, horses and coyotes, where it was historically known that there was "No Law West of Gates Road". In the early years life on the Ranch was hard work, and then the kids began to arrive. Mary and Bill raised their six children: Bill Lyons, Jr. (Suzy), Jane Lyons-Conover, Lynne Bogetti (Andy), Ed Lyons (Diana), Chuck Lyons and Louise Bogetti (Nate), and life on the ranch truly became a family affair. The six kids scattered and played in the ranch barn, down by the ranch pond, or rode their bikes to the "90 acres" until they heard Mom ring the cast-iron school bell right outside the kitchen door (which still exists in the same location). When they heard that bell ring, they'd better come running! Over the years, Mary and Bill collected several large antique school bells that can now be found in several locations on the ranch, and are still rung before a meal or celebration to this day.
Mary and Bill would drive to "town" once a week on Sundays. They would attend Mass at St. Stanislaus Church, followed by breakfast at Denny's (where all six kids were ordered the same meal) or The Sundial if it was a special occasion, and a trip to the grocery store for a weeks' worth of supplies.
In 1973, E.T. ("Uncle Ed") Mape passed away, and Bill and Mary took the reins of the ranch with their sons and began building the "Mape's Ranch" that exists today. As the ranch grew and prospered, so did Mary and Bill's family. Mary and Bill's greatest treasure was always their family, which includes 21 grandchildren: Drew Bogetti, Gina (Bogetti) Van Klaveren, Michael Conover, Jon Bogetti, Sarah (Lyons) Maniaci, Dianne (Lyons) Wulfsberg, Billy Lyons, Elizabeth (Bogetti) Borelli, Antone Bogetti, Matthew Lyons, Mary (Conover) Jakovickas, Melissa Davis-Lyons, Jameen (Bogetti) Mendes, James Bogetti, Tyler Lyons, Mark Conover, Katie (Lyons) Paris, Michelle (Conover) Lee, Charley Lyons, Mia Lyons and Will Lyons; and 42 (and counting!) great-grandchildren, who affectionately called their Great-Grandmother "Gigi". Mary was pre-deceased by her loving husband, Bill Lyons, Sr. in 2003 after 55 years of marriage. She had a wonderful relationship with her sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, had many caring nieces and nephews, and countless life-long cherished friends. She also had a great appreciation for her long-time dedicated ranch-hands, employees and consultants, many devoting over 40 years of their lives to her ranch and family business, and whom she treated like family.
With her sons Bill Jr. and Ed managing the ranch, Mary and Bill now had the time to enjoy watching their grandkids play after-school sports – from Hart Ransom Little League Baseball and Slam Jam Basketball and Soccer – to all things Central Catholic High School, where 5 of her children and all 21 of her grandchildren attended school. CCHS Friday Night Football was always an event, with Mary and Bill arriving early to stake their seats at the top of the bleachers to cheer on their sons and daughters and later their grandkids who played football, were cheerleaders, and all other sports. After the games, Mary and Bill would treat their family to pizza to celebrate. Mary remained devoted to Central Catholic High School throughout her life, attending any fundraisers or events for a good cause (she sure loved a charity auction!). Several of her great-grandchildren are now attending or have graduated from CCHS.
During this time, Mary and Bill also found a love of travel. They visited over 60 different countries, where they created fond memories from all over the world. They especially loved cruising, where they met so many new friends while hosting "cocktail hours" in their room. They traveled extensively across the United States throughout all 50 states. One of their favorite annual trips was traveling the U.S. with the California Cattlemen's Association where they shared their knowledge and love of the cattle business. Everyone wanted to be on Mary and Bill's bus – for the fun, the jokes, and the parties they loved to host. They enjoyed summers at the coast and winters in Arizona with their "snowbird friends" and planning their annual Super Bowl Party (Mary loved her professional sports: the Minnesota Vikings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and the Golden State Warriors). She cherished her annual "Birthday Getaway" with her three daughters, which started on her 60th birthday and continued for over 30 years. Their destinations included Disneyland, Pajaro Dunes, and an East Coast Cruise, just to name a few. Along with all the fun and laughter they shared, they always had matching pajamas befitting the current fashion trend.
The most important things in Mary's life were her love for her family, her faith, the ranch she helped build and the memories of raising her children. The Lyons family farming and ranching business, now in its fourth generation with the addition of Billy Lyons, James Bogetti and Tyler Lyons to the management team, continues to adhere to the beliefs on which its success has been built – hard work, dedication, and the strong family values instilled by Mary and Bill. They are considered pioneers in the agricultural community and devoted much of their time, energy and resources to countless charities and agricultural and environmental causes. Mary and Bill received numerous awards for their many contributions to the community. Among them, the Center for Human Services honored them with their "Distinguished Leadership Award", and they were ultimately inducted into the Stanislaus County "Ag Hall of Fame" in 2000. In 2001, they were honored by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for their environmental conservation efforts that led to the removal of the Aleutian Geese from the endangered species list.
Mary was a strong and determined woman who lived life on her own terms. She was always the life of the party, and often the last to leave the dance floor during the many celebrations, family gatherings and fundraisers she hosted at the 100-year-old lakeside "Ranch Barn". At her request, it became a custom for parties to end with a spectacular fireworks show over the lake. A Celebration of Life befitting Mary and her extraordinary life and legacy will be held at a later date.
There will be a private Rosary/Vigil for family only on Wednesday, October 6th and a private Celebration of Life Mass for family only on Thursday, October 7th A Visitation for friends and family will be held on Wednesday, October 6th from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm at St. Stanislaus Church (1200 Maze Blvd., Modesto).
The family would like to express their gratitude and appreciation to Clara and the "Right at Home" team and the "SEVA Hospice" team for the comfort and care they provided Mary in her last weeks.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to any one of Mary's favorite charities in her honor. Central Catholic High School Sports Program: 200 S. Carpenter Rd., Modesto 95351 Red Shield – Salvation Army: P.O. Box 58080, Modesto 95385 Modesto Gospel Mission: P.O. Box 1203, Modesto, 95353 Interfaith Ministries: 120 Kerr Avenue, Modesto 95354
Published by & from Sep. 25 to Oct. 6, 2021.