June Lyon, Imperial Beach area resident for 68 years, and President/Founder of Needy Souls’ Mission International, passed away in June 2015, one day past her 95th birthday.
June and her husband, Al Lyon, moved to Imperial Beach in 1947 to work Federal Civil Service at North Island in Coronado. They established their residence on 8th Street, where the CVS pharmacy is today. For more than 60 years, June and her family shared their lives in Imperial Beach. June’s mother, Elma Smoot, a prominent Imperial Beach realtor, owned the corner of Palm Ave and Delaware, where a car lot stands today. June’s sister, Gladys Hiles, a registered nurse, raised her family on Tenth Street. For a short time, they lived at Coronado’s military housing on Mullenix Drive before moving to Imperial Beach.
June was originally from Montezuma, Ohio and grew up on her grandfather’s fishing resort at Windy Point on Grand Lake in St. Mary’s, Ohio, where she learned to fish. In 2006, June recounted her lifelong love of fishing, along with her memories of early Palm City and Imperial Beach in an essay for the city’s 50th Anniversary. The essay was published in the Eagle and Times in August 2006.
June is predeceased by her husband, Al, and survived by their four children: David, Robert, Larry and Virginia. All were raised in Imperial Beach and graduated from Mar Vista High School. They enjoyed their ‘country’ lifestyle in Imperial Beach, especially during the 1950’s and 1960’s when the city had more dirt roads than paved streets.
Together, the family swam in the surf, explored the Tijuana Estuary ‘sloughs,’ and gathered gooseneck clams for bait from June’s rowboat. They fished from the pier and the half-day boats to Los Coronados Islands. Weekly activities included beach fires, grunion hunting, skating at the Rocket Roller Rink, swimming at Emory Cove and the Silver Strand, and movies at the Palm Theater and Big Sky Drive-in. They often picked tomatoes and strawberries from local farms, and managed their own potato patch on Elma Smoot’s property at Palm and Delaware. Later, Elma’s potato patch became Smoot’s Pottery Yard.
June and her mother, Elma, were friends of Imperial Beach historian Freda Elliott Adams, whose book, “History of Imperial Beach” reflected Elma Smoot’s early Palm City memories.
While in her twenties, June ‘lived’ in her bathing suit. She was ever ready with her fishing pole to ‘run’ to the beach and cast her line into the surf or off the Imperial Beach pier. In her nineties, she became an invalid, and occasionally visited the pier and the sloughs in her wheel chair. Poor health forced her to decline an invitation from IB Sandcastle Ball organizer, Candy Unger, to participate in the Sandcastle Days parade. June was proud to declare that she had been ‘invited to be in the IB parade!’ an unrequited invitation, which restored a sense of value, and great joy to June Lyon in her final years.
In her lifetime, June contributed great value to the community, both locally and internationally. In 1962, she founded Needy Soul’s Mission International, Inc., and served as President for fifty years. Her motivation to help the needy came in her teens in Ohio when she observed a ‘hobo’ walking down a dusty road. She yearned to help him, and others like him.
As President of Needy Souls’ Mission, June created and served local ministries for the homeless, for servicemen, runaways, teenagers, children, and incarcerated prisoners. June was a missionary in the colonies of Tijuana where she fed and clothed the poor and the orphaned. She wrote and distributed Christian literature and Bibles via her International mailing ministry to India, Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries. She used proceeds from her thrift store at Ninth and Palm to provide food for the homeless in Imperial Beach, Otay and South San Diego. ‘Sister June’ particularly enjoyed working in local soup kitchens, and distributing sandwiches to the homeless in Imperial Beach and the downtown San Diego ‘skid row’ area.
Throughout her lifetime, June was active in many organizations. She was a graduate of the International Morris Cerullo School of Ministry, and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). As a descendant of President John Adams and Captain Daniel Jewett, June was established in The Jewett Family of America. Her ancestry was traced by her sister, Gladys, to the first Crusade in the year 1096. During World War II, June and her mother served in the Women’s Ambulance and Defense Corps. The Lyon family were early members of West View Baptist church and contributed to the site’s development at Calla and Delaware during the 1940’s through the 1960’s.
June loved her life in Imperial Beach. She contributed goodness to the lives of the hurting and the hungry during her fifty year Christian ministry. Her unconditional love for her family and for strangers defined her membership in America’s ‘Greatest Generation.’ She was a precious soul who is sorely missed and forever remembered by those who benefited from her generous heart, and her special brand of Christian brotherly love. Truly, June Lyon was a philanthropist suo jure, a jewel in the crown of Imperial Beach history.