IRVINGTON, NJ — The funeral for former Irvington Municipal Council President and North Ward Councilman David Lyons took place at Christian Pentecostal Church on Clinton Avenue on Monday, Aug. 19.
According to Lyons’ wife, Charmin, he died from complications due to a heart-valve procedure in Beth Israel Hospital on Sunday, Aug. 11. Many came to pay their respects.
“I was honored to be here and be allowed to speak because Dave was more than a friend; he was family,” said former police Chief Michael Chase on Monday, Aug. 19. “What I liked about Dave was he was a radical, in the American sense. He wasn’t about business as usual, but he was about business. He wanted everyone to get their due and he wanted the public to be more important than you.”
He added that it was ironic that Lyons would succumb to a heart-related illness after he successfully survived heart transplant surgery almost 10 years ago, because he really did have “a lot of heart.”
“Dave was a true public servant,” Chase said. “You may not always agree with him, but you had to appreciate the heart. It’s the motivation. They tell me if you look at the heart of a man you’ll see what the substance of a man is. Dave had a good heart. He was a good man and a good family member. The family he has left here is my family still and I hope to express that love and that friendship even now.”
Chase said he will always remember the times he worked with Lyons to enforce existing municipal laws and to strengthen others when they were challenged, sometimes illegally. He said that their friendship was like a partnership in many ways even though, more often than not, they were separated by the rules and regulations of public office and police department protocol.
Chase said his friendship with Lyons brought new meaning to the phrase “crossing the aisle,” normally used to refer to elected officials from the Democratic and Republican parties putting aside political ideologies to work together for the greater public good.
“Dave was real,” said Chase. “Dave was not a politician; he was an elected official and he wanted to do what the public needed him to do, when he could do it. There’s a lot of changes. Dave evolved … because he knew it better enabled him to serve his constituency. People say (when) he changed, it wasn’t a change, it wasn’t a sellout, it was that he recognized a more effective way of representing his constituents serving as a council president, serving as a council member. And that’s the brother that I cared about. That’s the brother that was with me in the trenches. You learn one thing in your family — you don’t always agree with everything, but you’ve got to agree that they’re still family.”
Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin agreed.
“David challenged us and he challenged me many times and you hope that, when you’re challenged, you become better. That’s what our goal is; to become better when challenged. And David made me better,” said Durkin on Monday, Aug. 19. “Through my friend, Sen. Ron Rice, they were so close. The election cycle is what we have, as far as a democracy, and that’s what David cared about. David cared about everyone having a fair and open voice, without being inhibited, and that’s what I appreciate most of all.”
Durkin said Lyons reminded him of a poem that deals with the idea of life and living every moment to the fullest.
“‘A clock of life is wound up once and no man or woman has the power to tell just when the hands will stop at late or early hour,’” he quoted. “‘Now is the only time you owe. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time, for the hands may soon be still.’ David lived a full life. Because of David, we loved more. Because of David, we loved each other more and, because of that, we love David and we will always remember him and we will always pray for his soul.”
Recreation Department and Cultural Affairs Director Donald Malloy sang a gospel song in honor of Lyons and then Christian Pentecostal Church Pastor Jerry Smith took over the final service.
“May the works I’ve done before God speak for me,” Smith said in his homily. “People don’t care about what you say. They care about how you treat them.”
Smith said Lyons had a way of “asking and demanding at the same time” and that’s what helped make him a good man, good husband, good father, good leader and a great elected official.
“You know, life is short,” said Smith. “I’ve come to understand that it’s not about what life does to you; it’s about how you respond to life. Many of us try to figure out what is the problem and, at times, we all try to figure out what the problem might be. What I loved about David Lyons was he didn’t just talk about the problem. His aim was to solve the problem. You’ve got to understand that he was a champion of the people. Not many of us can say that about other people because, if the truth be told, a lot of us are selfish. We’re only concerned about ourselves and our ideologies. We don’t want to respect other people’s beliefs and how they see things. I’ve learned that peace is power and you have to maintain your peace.”
Smith also advised all the attendees at Lyons’ funeral to follow his example and live their lives with a purpose.
“If you’re going to live life, live life with purpose. A person that don’t know their purpose lives life aimlessly, lives life without meaning and searches for love in all the wrong places,” said Smith. “Live life on purpose. What is purpose? Purpose is God’s original intent, for which he made you. David Lyons lived life on purpose. Every day, when he woke up, when his feet hit the ground, he was going out to fight for the people. And I’ve learned through life, if you ain’t living life for somebody else, life ain’t worth living. Life ain’t even worth fighting for when you don’t have someone to fight for other than yourself. Live life in the present. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never be mine.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to learn to let go, in order to really live life. When you hold on to things and hatred and anger and jealousy, it’s not good. Live life in the present and it will bring you so much freedom, when you learn to love like David Lyons did. Live life on purpose. Live life in the present and live life with a passion.”