JAN. 6, 2010 12 AM PT
O.C. builder, arts patron
Leon Lyon, 89, an Orange County developer, financier and philanthropist, died Dec. 15 at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach of complications from congestive heart failure, his family announced.
A Newport Beach resident, Lyon was the brother of prominent Orange County home builder William Lyon. Together they founded Luxury Homes in 1954 and became leaders in the suburban Southern California housing boom until selling the company in 1968.
Although his brother, nicknamed the General, stayed in the housing business, Lyon retired and moved with his wife, Molly, from Fullerton to Newport Beach and nurtured their passion for art collecting.
He served on the board of trustees of the Newport Harbor Art Museum and helped raise funds for the institution’s move to a larger facility, now called the Orange County Museum of Art. He continued to serve on the board there as well as the Orange County Philharmonic Society and the Laguna College of Art and Design.
Born May 1, 1920, Lyon was the son of a Los Angeles businessman whose beverage wholesale company was a major importer and distributor of the Mexican liqueur Kahlua in the United States.
After graduating from USC in 1942, Lyon served in the Marine Corps during World War II.
After the war, he joined the family business, later moving on to the finance industry and serving as president of Guardian Thrift and Loan.
Lyon’s wife died in 2003. He married Barbara Baker Burnham in 2005. She survives him, along with his brother; two sons, Bruce and Curt; a daughter, Linda Othenin-Girard;, five stepchildren; six grandchildren; and 17 step-grandchildren.