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Volume 5, Issue 55  |  July 10, 2020

General William Lyon dies at 97

General William Lyon

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Courtesy of U.S. Air Force (Public Domain)

General William Lyon

William Lyon, a renowned homebuilder and Orange County civic leader, died Friday, May 22, at the age of 97.

Lyon was born in 1923 in Los Angeles. He attended the University of Southern California prior to enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a reservist in 1943.

During WWII, Lyon was assigned to the Pacific and European theaters where he ferried aircraft.

In 1953 he volunteered for a tour of duty in Korea and flew some 75 combat missions.

Lyon remained in the service as a reservist throughout the years before retiring in 1979 as a major general in the Air Force, with duties that included serving as the Commander of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command.

His military decorations and awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit, Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Combat Readiness Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with hour glass device, and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

He was the founder of the Lyon Air Museum near the John Wayne Airport.    

Lyon joined Newport Beach resident George Argyros in 1981 to buy AirCal airline.

In addition to his military career, Lyon joined his family in developing an Orange County home building company in the 1950s.

In the early 1970s, Lyon started The William Lyon Co., headquartered in Newport Beach. He developed it into one of the largest homebuilding companies in the nation.

Lyon was also very active locally in philanthropic endeavors supporting organizations including the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Orangewood Children’s Foundation and the Boy Scouts of America.

He is survived by his wife, Willa Dean; two daughters, Susan Isola and Christine Rhoades; stepdaughter, Marcia Stone; son, Bill H. Lyon; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, Byron Russell.

Services will be private with a celebration of life to follow at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to Orangewood Foundation (

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