HARWINTON — Nancy Shanley Lyons was recently selected as the 2020 recipient of the Harwinton Outstanding Citizen Award, which will be presented for the 46th time at a banquet in her honor at Fairview Farm Golf Course April 17.
She and her husband, Dr. V. Everett Lyons, have two daughters, Amy and Heather, and seven grandchildren.
Lyons’ father, Lloyd, served the town for 22 years as First Selectman, on the board of finance and as town historian until his death in 2005. Her mother, Helen, served in the House of Representatives under Gov. Ella Grasso. Her father received the Arthur Poole Award, now the Outstanding Citizen Award, in 1986.
Lyons was born and raised in Harwinton, one of four children born to Lloyd and Helen Shanley. Her ancestors have resided in Harwinton since the mid-1800s.
She attended Region 10 schools and graduated from Lewis S. Mills High School. She received undergraduate and graduate degrees in both elementary education and special education from Southern Connecticut State University, as well as her 6th year certificate in special education administration from UConn in Storrs.
Lyons has worked with special education students and adults in school systems throughout Northwest Connecticut, retiring in 2014 after a career spanning 45 years. During the last 15 years of her career, she worked in Watertown and Thomaston as Pupil Services Director. Since 2014, she has assisted school systems in need of administrative coverage.
“My first memories of volunteering were at around the age of eight, helping my mother to stuff mailers for the local March of Dimes campaign, which she chaired,” Lyons said. “As a youth, I volunteered as an assistant Sunday School teacher. We were raised to volunteer and to help others. I don’t remember a time when that didn’t happen.
“Grandfather Lloyd Shanley Sr. took in people who had been displaced as a result of World War II. The local churches looked for farms where they could work,” she said. “Grandpa gave them room, board and a small stipend to work on the farm. Since the two farms were contiguous, as a child I often visited and I learned to see that as human beings, we really are very similar no matter where we are born or what language we may speak. Those frequent visits gave me a caring attitude about helping those less fortunate or in need. Experiences such as these helped to shape who I continue to be today.”
Lyons’ civic contributions are extensive. She served on the Board of Selectmen for four years, as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for more than 25 years and was an alternate for the Zoning Commission. She was also a member of the Board of Directors for the Harwinton Housing Authority, the Harwinton House Task Force, and the Bronc Callahan Community Fund.
Lyons continues to volunteer as a member of the Housing Authority, serves as secretary of the Harwinton Democratic Town Committee, and is an organizing member of the Harwinton Cemetery Walk Committee. She has been a member of the Harwinton Lions Club for more than seven years, and was recently awarded the Melvin Jones Fellowship by the Lions Clubs International Foundation, and is the recipient of the 2017 Ambassador of Sight Awardby the Lions Low Vision Centers of CT.
She worked two missions as a VOSH CT (Volunteer Optometrists Serving Humanity) in Nicaragua providing eyecare, vision screenings and glasses to those in need, an annual trip organized by Dr. Matthew Blondin and his wife Audrey Blondin.
Lyons’ volunteer work includes vision screenings for Special Olympic athletes, Lions District 23B Quest Chair, introducing anti-drug, social-emotional curriculum; the club’s scholarship committee, KidSight Eye Screening for local school districts, Red Cross Blood drives and the Lions Pancake Breakfast.
Today, she serves as the vice president of the Harwinton Historical Society, actively participating in the scholarship committee as well as volunteering a various social events: the town-wide Ice Cream Social, Harwinton Elementary School’s one-room schoolhouse and barn tour, the Harwinton Fair Country Store and Take-A Chance, recognizing and highlighting Harwinton businesses.
Lyons is a devoted member of the Harwinton Congregational Church and is the church council president. She also served as a Deacon for 12 years and co-leader for the Youth Group for 10 years. In the past, she served as the church Historian, stewardship board member and has worked with teams of youth and adults from Harwinton and from around the U.S., helping to rebuild and repair houses ruined by flooding in Appalachia.
In 2011, Lyons was the recipient of the Ella Grasso Women’s Leadership Award. Today, she is a member and past President of Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa (International Educators Sorority doing Altruistic work). She also volunteers for the Warner Theatre, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity and Team In Training, completing a Century Bike Ride at Lake Tahoe, raising more than $7,000 for leukemia research and assistance to local families.
Members of the community say Lyons’ dedication and passion for volunteering is “truly outstanding.”
A rotating committee of Harwinton Residents selects the recipient of the award, which honors volunteerism and community involvement. To be eligible, a candidate must be a resident of Harwinton for a minimum of five years and must be actively engaged in the civic affairs of the town, whether elected, appointed or voluntary. The 2020 committee includes Cora Bell, Bill Buys, John Fredsall, Monty Lyons, Maddy Marzullo and chairman Cindy Orefice. Besides being honored at the banquet, Nancy’s name will be engraved on a trophy bearing the names of past honorees and a check from the banquet proceeds will be presented to the charity or charities of her choice.
Banquet tickets are $40 per person, $10 for children 10 and under) and can be obtained by calling 860-485-0120. Early reservations are encouraged.