(Left) Ina Lyon with her husband of 40 years, Richard. (Right) Just a few masks Ina has crafted for Roger Maris staff and patients.

Roger Maris donor: ‘It matters what you do’

April 28, 2020

To Ina Lyon, it doesn’t matter what you have. It matters what you do.

And Lyon does a lot, especially when it comes to giving back to her community.

After losing her husband of 40 years to pancreatic cancer, Lyon was inspired to support cancer research through the Reimagine campaign. Her gift, and the generosity of so many others, will help prepare Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo for the next generation of cancer care and discovery.

But her giving spirit doesn’t stop there. Today, Lyon is hard at work trying to protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic by making masks for health care workers and patients at Roger Maris.

“I don’t need to have accolades,” Lyon said. “I don’t do this because I’m waiting for someone to say you’re doing great. If I’m capable of helping, I want to help.”


Making it first

Lyon was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1942, right in the middle of World War II. One of her earliest memories was carrying a lantern down five floors from her family’s apartment to a bomb shelter.

“I had to take care of a lot of things when I was just three years old,” Lyon said. “There were no toys, not much food, not much of anything. If I wanted to play with something, I had to make it first.”

Now in her late 70s, Lyon is still making things. She will take on almost any project that needs doing. She’s not afraid to try her hand at fixing whatever needs fixing and making whatever needs making.

Having made most of her family’s clothes, two wedding dresses and a coat and suit for her husband, Lyon is especially skilled behind the sewing machine.

After much experimentation, she created her own pattern for the face masks and is determined to make as many as she can to help support patients and health care workers during the global pandemic.

Cancer patients, especially those with weakened immune systems, are among the most vulnerable to complications from COVID-19.


In loving memory

Lyon’s passion for Roger Maris runs deep after having watched her husband, Richard, battle pancreatic cancer. Following his passing and in honor of his cancer journey, she founded the Dr. Richard K. Lyon Memorial Endowment for Cancer Research at Roger Maris.

She also arranged for a portion of her estate to benefit the endowment.

“Ina takes so much care in all she does, whether she’s making a thoughtful gift to support her passion for cancer research or carefully crafting face masks to help keep our staff and patients safe,” said Amy Hinkemeyer, executive director of the Sanford Health Foundation in Fargo. “We are beyond grateful to have the support of people like her especially during times like these.

“Our fundraising efforts for Roger Maris aren’t on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cancer patients still rely on Roger Maris and philanthropy plays such an important role in providing the expert care they need.”

Gifts made to the Reimagine campaign will help expand research, cancer treatment and services, care at the Sanford Hospice House and education and training for the oncology workforce.


Giving back

If like Lyon, you are looking for a way to make a difference today, here are a few ways you can get involved: