Obituary for Robert Simon “Simi” Lyss
January 9, 1936 – December 26, 2020
Robert Simon “Simi” Lyss passed away in his home in Nevada City on December 26, 2020, exactly two weeks before his eighty-fifth birthday. He is survived by wife Cookie, his daughter Heidi and son Robert (mother Barbara), step-daughter Tressa and grandchildren Connor and Caitlyn. He was preceded in death by parents Erich and Mary Lyss, brother Eric and many beloved pets including most recently cat George whom Simi said would be impatiently awaiting him.
Simi was born in Pasadena, CA. When Simi was about 10 years old the family moved north to a farm in Chicago Park, CA. Simi attended school in a one-room schoolhouse, joined the local 4-H club, helped care for the family farm, and worked tending the Bierwagens’ orchard trees.
Simi graduated from Nevada Union High School in 1953 with the school’s first graduating class. In college, he joined the Army ROTC and studied Mechanical Engineering, earning his Bachelor of Science from UC Berkeley. After graduating and serving in the army at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, he decided his true calling was to help people. He married first wife Barbara in 1959 and attended medical school at UC San Francisco. After receiving his M.D in 1964, he resumed military service working at Martin Army Hospital in Fort Benning, GA.
Simi and his young family then returned to the Bay Area where he completed a dermatology residency at UCSF and then started work at Kaiser Permanente Hayward as a board-certified dermatologist. From there his long medical career included serving as Physician-in-Chief at Kaiser Hospital Walnut Creek and later as Regional Medical Director for Kaiser Permanente’s northeast region (NY, CT, MA). He continued to see patients weekly to stay connected with the heart of why he had chosen medicine as his profession.
Generous with time and resources, Simi was always available for family, friends and community. He played often with his young children. He and son Rob volunteered to push-truck in Simi’s Jeep at the weekly car races at the Nevada County Fairgrounds and he taught daughter Heidi how to print photos. He cared for his neighbors as patients, pro bono. Simi’s curious mind led to his pursuit of interests in the sciences, history, automobiles, trains, flying, design, photography and more. He managed to read deeply in all of these areas. He loved a good joke, circulating many to his friends. We know his email group will miss his humorous sharings.
Simi married wife Cookie Everts in 1997. After Simi retired in 1999, they moved to Nevada County, the place Simi had loved since childhood. Together they enjoyed supporting the community from their forest home that they shared with their menagerie of pets and visiting outdoor wildlife.
Simi did not stay “retired” however, chairing the Kellermann Foundation Board (2005-2012), contributing administrative expertise and designing plans for the 175-bed Bwindi Community Hospital near Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and the Uganda nursing school that grew to over 400 students. Simi also diagnosed dermatological conditions from digital photos sent from Uganda. Locally, when Western Sierra Medical Clinic needed an interim Chief Medical Officer, Simi stepped in (2016). Last September Simi was inducted into the Nevada County Fairgrounds Hall of Fame after serving on the Fairgrounds Board for fourteen years. He also helped create the Nevada County Fairgrounds Foundation.
Simi valued and exemplified the ethic of service in all that he did. His friends and colleagues describe him as a healer with the clarity of an engineer’s thinking. Many of his friends and acquaintances highlight his wonderful sense of humor and modesty. His friend Scott Kellermann said, “Simi’s great light will continue to burn brightly in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.”
We miss him very much and are grateful for the blessings he shared with us.
Simi is interred at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery for veterans. A celebration of his life is planned for when we can again gather together safely. Details will be announced.
Donations in Simi’s memory may be made to The Kellermann Foundation (www.kellermannfoundation.org), Nevada County Fairgrounds Foundation (nevadacountyfair.com/foundation), or Sammie’s Friends (www.sammiesfriends.org).
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