’He helped, just by listening’: Dr. Simi Lyss dies at 84 | TheUnion.com

’He helped, just by listening’: Dr. Simi Lyss dies at 84

For his years of service, Dr. Simi Lyss was inducted into the Nevada County Fairgrounds Hall of Fame in September.
Submitted by Wendy Oaks
Dr. Simi Lyss lived in Nevada City with his wife, Cookie Lyss, after retiring from active medical practice in 1999.
Submitted to The Union

Dr. Simi Lyss touched the lives of many in the community.

“He was a very kind person,” said his wife, Cookie Lyss. “There were many people that he helped, just by listening.”

Dr. Lyss died Saturday. He was 84.

Cookie Lyss said her husband, born in Chicago Park and a member of Nevada Union High School’s 1953 first graduating class, loved the area and wanted to return to it when he retired from active practice in 1999.

Lyss earned his medical degree and was trained as a dermatologist at UC San Francisco, after studying mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley as an undergraduate.

He took on several top administrative roles during his medical career, including as chief vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer for Health Partners of the Southeast, regional medical director for Kaiser Permanente’s northeast region, chief of staff of Kaiser Foundation Hospital, and physician-in-chief of The Permanente Medical Group in Walnut Creek.

Dr. Scott Kellermann, who considered Lyss both a friend and mentor, said, “His advice was always impeccable.”

Lyss would go on to serve as the chairman of the Kellermann Foundation board of directors, and contributed dermatological knowledge, administrative expertise, and designs for several structures as the foundation expanded its medical outreach in Uganda.

Lyss, said Kellermann, was talented in a variety of ways and did not usually try to be “the center of attention,” although he became that at times because “when he had words of wisdom, you didn’t want to miss any of them.”

He credited Lyss with helping the foundation flourish. “I could not have done it without Simi,” he said.


In 2016, Lyss was named chief medical officer of Western Sierra Medical Clinic in Grass Valley.

In September, Lyss was inducted into the Nevada County Fairgrounds Hall of Fame. He had previously served on the Nevada County Fairgrounds Board of Directors for 14 years, after first becoming involved as a volunteer for the Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum Club.

Former Nevada County Fairgrounds CEO Ed Scofield, who currently serves as District 2 supervisor, said Lyss was “a very special man.”

Scofield said Lyss became an adviser to him, going “from a small involvement with the railroad to a total understanding and appreciation of the fair itself.”

Former Nevada County Fairgrounds CEO Sandy Woods said Lyss played an instrumental role in the creation of the Nevada County Fairgrounds Foundation.

Woods said Lyss’ environmental consciousness motivated him to help develop plans for the reforestation of the fairgrounds.

She also noted that Lyss, “a healing person,” often showed concern for the health of those around him, encouraging them to call him if they had a problem.

“He was brilliant,” said Woods. “He had a marvelous sense of humor, a deep commitment to our community, and he was a reserved and dignified person.”

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.

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