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Rotary loses Lyday at Thursday meeting

A longtime Rotary Club of Port Arthur member died Thursday, while attending a meeting of the group he loved so much.

Members had driven Pete Lyday to meetings for years and attended to his every need. They say he did not want to miss a single meeting.

Arrangements, for Lyday, 93, of Port Arthur, are pending at Levingston Funeral Home.

Ken Burke of Nederland picked up Lyday, who was retired from the automotive business, from Rose House nursing home on Thursday, as  he usually did. The pair attended the meeting at the Holiday Inn Park Central where Lyday died of an apparent heart attack. Burke said his friend was one of the first Rotarians to help him get acquainted with the area when he moved here in the 1990s.

“He was a super, super nice guy. Very friendly. Rotary … after his wife died, that was his life, “ Burke said.

He also noted that Lyday, a widower, attracted the attention of women, especially models that photographer Rotarian Frank Cricchio brought as guests. Cricchio agreed that women tended to gravitate toward Lyday’s smile and personality. One guest always asked to sit by him and even cut his meat, he said.

“Pete was a giver. He loved Rotary. He never missed Rotary. We took turns to get his food and bring him what he liked and to get his dessert,” Cricchio said.

He recalled that when in better health, Lyday would attend Rotary conventions dressed in Cajun attire to promote his heritage.

At the very luncheon where Lyday died, Cricchio said he gave a eulogy, saying he expected Lyday to be at the side of God watching a beautiful sunrise.

When land developer Jeff Hayes was just 5, Lyday was his Sunday school teacher at Church of Christ in Port Arthur. He said his lessons involved working hard and being honest.

“That’s the way he lived,” Hayes said. “Pete always had a smile and a lot of times we’d be sitting around and talking about raising money for a good cause. He wouldn’t say too much to me, but he would slip me a $100 bill when no one was looking and tell me to put it to good use. He did that a lot of times.”

Hayes laughed as he recalled his friend’s generosity.

“He was a good fella,” Hayes said.

Lyday was named an Unsung Hero in the Port Arthur News Citizen of the Year contest. Ruth Bellaire nominated him. Here is an excerpt from her letter:

Mr. Pete Lyday has been very influential in our life since 1977. It was my pleasure to have the privilege of being hired by Pete and the late Ruth Lyday. Asking the Lord for guidance, I found two wonderful people in my life.

I worked for Pete and Ruth  for seven and a half years. During that time I enjoyed meeting local people who have helped our family excel in the business world of Port Arthur.

Pete has done many wonderful deeds, such as establishment of a scholarship at Lamar to honor his wonderful son, Lance. In his busy world of business, I saw him extend his hand of help to all of his employees.

Yes, I, Ruth Bellaire proudly say “thanks, Pete, for all your love.”

ddoiron@panews.com