Old School Malibu remembers one of its own and embraces those he left behind
By Barbara Burke
Special to The Malibu Times
Hundreds gathered at Zuma Beach Tower 10 on a cold rainy morning to commune and share stories about one of Malibu’s own, Lyon Herron, 32, who passed away on Dec. 17. He entered hospice care after fighting a relentless disease he was diagnosed with at the age of 4. As he prepared to transition, Lyon was supported by loving family and friends.
“Today was wrapped up in so many layers of emotion,” said Barbie Herron Conkling, Lyon’s mother. “Lyon started the day off by sending us the most vibrantly magical rainbow.” She referred to a stunningly gorgeous rainbow spanning over the entire expanse of Zuma Beach as the memorial at the beach began.
Beautiful Hawaiian leis were worn by many attendees and some were gently laid on the beach and placed in the ocean, their fragrance adding sweetness to the memorial paddle-out.
At Duke’s, where Lyon used to work, an enormous group of locals and some folks who traveled a long way to join the memorial gathered to share and celebrate Lyon’s life.
“Lyon had the best nature and was the most good-hearted person,” Jimmy Chavez, Duke’s manager, said. “I knew him since he was a kid — he was generous and gracious and was a purely positive soul. He was always so humble and so kind.”
As attendees entered the reception room, large posters with Lyon’s pictures warmly embraced them. Lyon on his dirt bike, proud and strong. Lyon radiantly smiling as he stood in the ocean, immersed in a gentle, healing sea of tranquility that served as a source of strength for a fierce warrior battling an incessantly stubborn disease. Lyon surfing. Lyon the warrior bearing one of his hallmark T-shirts embossed with “F*#@k Cancer!”
Attendees signed a surfboard in Lyon’s honor.
“The Malibu tribe was reunited to embrace Lyon, one of our favorite natives.” Matt Diamond said. “Lyon’s last wishes were to be celebrated by Backbone 69, the heart and soul of the Malibu music scene from the mid-’90s to the mid-2000s. Today’s memorial jam was to celebrate Lyon’s life as well as that of Chris Williams, the founder of Backbone.”
Original members of Backbone who performed were: guitarist Duane Betts, drummer Alex Orbison, bassist Damon Webb and a special guest guitarist Elijah Blue.
It was one of those uniquely Malibu parties celebrating Old Malibu, the Malibu where Barbie Herron grew up, had Lyon when she was young, raised him, and fiercely helped him wage his war against illness.
“Lyon was an enormous foodie,” Barbie said. “So, of course it was fitting that the menu would be delicious, including Ahi poke, roasted hulu chicken, and Kalua pork, macaroni salad, jasmine rice and salad … and lots and lots of desserts.”
“Lyon’s energy was strong and everyone could feel it at the paddle-out,” Mike Curtis said. “Surfing today wasn’t easy — it certainly was not glassy.”
Perhaps an unintended metaphor for Lyon’s lot in life — his life was anything but smooth as he constantly faced medical challenges. Yet, he still resolved to enjoy life as best he could, and then some.
“Lyon never let his illness take over his life,” Jackson Wirth said. “He was an amazing guy — one day he’d be out there surfing and then, he’d have surgery a few days later.”
Mike Downing recalled Lyon tagging along with his family on a visit to Hawaii.
“My son Cheyne and Lyon were friends and Lyon was always at our house,” Downing said. “He was always a nice, friendly kid and he didn’t mind if he had to sleep on the couch in Hawaii — he was delighted to join us and surf. Everyone loved Lyon and his energy.”
So many memories. So many accolades. So many tributes. Wirth summed up what those gathered at the memorial at Duke’s shared.
“Lyon was the cornerstone of the community,” he said. “Even those who did not know him personally admired him greatly.”
“I’ve known Lyon since he was a teenager,” Dave Olan said, texting in from India where he is traveling. “He was a kind and cool guy who had an amazing style and he fought his disease against all odds for so many years with such dignity and poise.
“The torrential downpours in Malibu today represent the tears of Lyon’s stalwart Malibu family.”
Lyon is survived by his mother, Barbie Herron Conkling; his stepfather, Rich Conkling; sister, Bella Herron; brother, Harper Rae; his father, Troy Bygrav; his stepmother, Alison Bygrave; and his sister, Mackena Bygrave. Lyon is fondly remembered and sorely missed by a voluminous number of Malibuites who surfed with him, attended school with him, worked with him at Duke’s Restaurant and a wide community of well-wishers, all of whom comprise his tribe.