Former ARB member Ed Tsoi

 UPDATED Oct. 3: Charles H. “Charlie” Lyons of Methuen, formerly of Arlington, died Sept. 25, at age 70, surrounded by his loving family, after a courageous battle with glioblastoma, his obituary reported.

 Visiting hours were set for 4 to 7 p.m.Monday, Oct. 2, at St. Agnes Church, 30 Medford St., Arlington. The funeral Mass was at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, also at St. Agnes, with interment to follow in St. Paul’s Cemetery, East Arlington.

Before his passing, he had requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations in his name be sent to Fidelity House, 25 Medford St., Arlington, MA 02474.

Mr. Lyons is being remembered as a larger-than-life figure whose insight and foresight continue to benefit the community, who found joy in bringing people together, who was willing to share his immense knowledge and to stand up for what he thought was right.

In particular, his ability to build friendships even in the midst of political disagreements set him apart and earned him friends around the country, those who knew him best say.

A leader even at 18

Lyons, a 1971 graduate of Arlington Catholic and a stalwart in Arlington politics for more than 40 years, was elected in March 1972 to the Arlington School Committee -- making him the first 18-year-old in the country to be elected to a town or city office.

Lyons served on the committee until 1979, including two years as its chair, and was the recipient of the Ten Outstanding Young Leaders Award during his tenure.

Lyons was an Arlington selectman (a position now called Select Board member) for two dozen years, according to the Lowell Sun, and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Boston State College before it merged into UMass./Boston. He taught at what is now called Minuteman High School for a decade, and eventually became a skilled and respected school superintendent at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica from 1987 until his retirement in December 2015.

He was also a member of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s board of directors, becoming an expert in all things water and sewer.

He was president of the National League of Cities in 2004 -- the first selectman to hold the position in the 80-year history of the league.

‘One of a kind’

“Charlie Lyons was one of a kind! His vision and passion for the town and his in-depth understanding of municipal finance was second to none,” said colleague and friend Jack Hurd. “I had the opportunity to serve on the [Select] Board with Charlie for eight years. He was a wealth of knowledge, ideas and good humor. He never compromised on what he thought was in the best interest of the town, even if it wasn’t politically popular.

‘His vision and passion for the town and his in-depth understanding of municipal finance was second to none.’ – Jack Hurd

“Charlie had a long list of accomplishments, but, most important, he was a proud dad and granddad and a great friend. He will be missed by many.”

Paul Schlichtman, the vice chair of the Arlington School Committee, said that Lyons had an immense depth of knowledge, was expert on a wide range of topics and always willing to share his knowledge with anyone who was interested.

“Charlie Lyons was a wicked smart high achiever. He packed a half-dozen lifetimes of achievement into one life, and his beloved Arlington is a better place for his efforts,” Schlichtman said. “I spent hours with him, and he supported my work as a school committee member by teaching me the intricacies of the foundation budget and Chapter 70 funding for Massachusetts public schools.”

‘His beloved Arlington is a better place for his efforts.’ – Paul Schlichtman

Schlichtman noted, “Charlie’s knowledge/political skill is evident in Arlington today. The Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program was created to assist cities with populations greater than 50,000 people. Charlie was skilled at explaining Massachusetts town government to federal officials and members of Congress that recognized Arlington as eligible for funding.”

Schlichtman continued, “When our population dropped below 50,000, he worked with [U.S.] House of Representatives] Speaker Tip O’Neill to allow qualified [smaller] municipalities to continue in the CDBG program. His skill at describing the complexity of Arlington, and his leadership skills, brought him to the presidency of the National League of Cities.”

Select Board expresses praise

At their Sept. 27 meeting, Select Board members observed a moment of silence, offered their condolences and expressed their appreciation.

Chair Eric Helmuth: “Arlington is grateful for Mr. Lyons' many years of service to the community, and our thoughts are wth his family at this time.”

Vice Chair John Hurd: “Our family was tight with their family, and Lyons definitely made his mark on Arlington. This is a huge loss in the history of Arlington.”

Member Steve DeCourcey: “He left the community in better shape after his years of service on the Select Board.”

Member Len Diggins: “I appreciate the work that he did and the contributions he made, on behalf of the town.”

2005 property-tax override

One of Lyons’ greatest accomplishments, which also included the demonstration of his financial expertise, Schlichtman said, came when Arlington experienced the impact of cuts from Proposition 2½. Lyons helped devise the five-year plan that helped persuade local voters to support the 2005 property-tax override.

Schlichtman explained, “Charlie understood the challenge of funding a densely populated community with the constraints of Proposition 2½. With a funding structure tied to new growth, in a town lacking the open space to generate it, Charlie developed a plan to tie override votes to a fiscal stability plan. He put together a plan with a reserve account and commitments to spending limits to assure Arlington voters of the wisdom of investing in our town.”

 ‘Charlie developed a plan to tie override votes to a fiscal stability plan.’ – Schlichtman

Al Tosti, himself something of a local legend in Arlington for his continuing service on the Finance Committee, had this to say about his late friend:

“I have served in town government for over 50 years -- and during that period Charlie Lyons was the most impactful and effective leader of our town.”

‘Charlie Lyons was the most impactful and effective leader of our town.’ – Al Tosti

Tosti continued, “Starting with the passing of Proposition 2½, through a series of overrides and debt exclusions, he coordinated and led town officials and citizens to guide us through the challenges we faced. Quite often, his work was done behind the scenes, with only a few knowing how much he contributed to our town. He was a true leader and a good friend. He will be missed.”

YourArlington founder and veteran journalist Bob Sprague  met Lyons in August 1994, when he covered his first meeting as editor of the weekly newspaper The Arlington Advocate. He agreed that Lyons looked out for the community’s future.

“Lyons, then a selectman, promoted a policy requiring restaurant patrons to order food with drinks -- one measure that led to the town’s restaurant expansion,” said Sprague.

‘One measure that led to the town’s restaurant expansion.’ – Bob Sprague

Sprague also said that four years later, in 1998, Lyons, then also superintendent of Shawsheen Tech, provided a network connection enabling the first Town of Arlington website, which Sprague launched with the help of web files from Dee Ryan Fairbanks donated by Schlichtman.

Schlichtman recalled, “At a National School Board Association conference in New Orleans, [Lyons] invited me to have breakfast with him. When I arrived, he was seated at a table set for three with the mayor, having a great time discussing local government.

“Charlie Lyons was larger than life, and this loss leaves a large hole in our world.”

Survivors number in the dozens

Lyons was the son of the late William and Helen Lyons of Arlington. He was the beloved husband of Leanne (Marciano) Lyons. He is survived by children Christine Lyons of Londonderry, N.H.; Lisa (Lyons) Tully and her husband, Ryan, of Beverly; and Michael Lyons and his wife, Jennifer, of Medford. He was the stepfather of Amanda Tremlett and Ray Tremlett, both of California.

He is also survived by sister Peggy Mulcahy and her husband, Ed, of Burlington; twin brother Jack Lyons and his wife, Nancy, of Hudson, N.H; and by other siblings Tom Lyons and his wife, Maureen, of Burlington; Mary Lyons of Arlington; Patty Mazure and her husband, Greg, of Boston and; the late William “Bill” Lyons.

He is also survived by sister-in-law Jean Lyons of Burlington; and by grandchildren Emily, Jack, Nolan, Caroline and Norah. He was the former husband of the late Robin Noyes Lyons. He is also survived by his uncle, Connie Lyons, and by many nieces, nephews, cousins, colleagues and friends.

This piece by YourArlington freelancer Tony Moschetto was published Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, based on information from, interviews with local residents and YourArlington's files. It was updated Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, to include comments from members of the Arlington Select Board, and Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, to note that the visitation, funeral mass and interment took place.