Joseph Bardwell Lyman III


Died October 30, 2008

College: Davenport

Children: George, 1969

It is to Joe Lyman that I owe my love of the White Mountains. He invited me soon after graduation to New Hampshire, his home state, to do, as he put it, “some walking.” My walking till then had taken me up nothing steeper or longer than Prospect St. to the Yale Infirmary.

Day One. After four hours of terror on the headwall of Tuckerman Ravine, we staggered (I staggered) into Lakes of the Clouds Hut on the shoulder of Mount Washington shortly before dark. Wind howling, rain horizontal, temperature in the mid-40s, a normal August evening.

Day Two. In dense fog and drizzle we set out for Madison Springs Hut feeling our way cairn by cairn over the summits of Washington and Jefferson. This route, all above tree line, is immensely popular, but that day no one else was using it. Eight hours in it began to register that our endeavor might just be lacking a clear rationale. Suddenly the clouds parted revealing below miles and miles of stunning terrain. From that moment on, I was hooked.

Joseph Bardwell Lyman III arrived at Yale with the class of 1960 but eventually threw his lot in with us. He was active at Dwight Hall and Battell Chapel, motivated by a love of God and a passion for social justice that made for an instant rapport with William Sloane Coffin with whom Joe stayed in touch throughout his life. After Yale, he enrolled at Andover Newton Theological Seminary outside of Boston to prepare for parish ministry in the United Church of Christ, a course of study that was interrupted for several years by service in the U.S. Army. In 1967 he was ordained. The late ‘60s and early ‘70s took him to parishes in DeRuyter, NY, and Stillwater, MN. Then for several decades he worked for the Social Security Administration.

Joe died at the end of October, 2008. His last years were spent in a nursing home in Minneapolis from where he conducted long phone conversations with friends and former colleagues. To get a call from Joe was an uncommon treat, overflowing as he was with gratitude for everything that had come his way, even in his diminished state. Listening to him was inspiring, and humbling too. A lovely man. May he rest in peace.

— by David R. Adams