Women we should know: Kelsley A. Lyons



The soccer bug stayed with her when her family moved to Litchfield in 1994. A year later, when she began her freshman year at Litchfield High School, she tried out for the boys’ soccer team because there was no girls’ team.

She made the team, then began working with her father to get school officials to form a girls soccer team. They did, and for two seasons she was a team captain and a key player.

Kelsley A. Lyons

Teen’s Passion Was Soccer

Charity, Achievement Filled Her Short Life


April 11, 1998|By DAVID OWENS; Courant Staff Writer

LITCHFIELD — As a soccer player Kelsley A. Lyons refused to let Von Willebrand disease limit her life. Each time she took to the field there was a risk she’d suffer an injury her body would not be able to control. The disease, a form of hemophilia, had sent the 17-year- old Litchfield High School junior to the hospital several times for injuries that most people could shake off.

Thursday, the disease was a factor in claiming her life after the car she was driving struck a tree, trapping her. Despite firefighters’ efforts to free her from the car and

a Life Star helicopter crew’s efforts to save her life, unstoppable internal bleeding brought on by the accident ended Miss Lyons’ life, said her mother, Lora Lyons-Thibault.

Miss Lyons died at 4:23 p.m. at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury.

“We wanted very much that she not be a China doll,” her mother said. “We wanted her to live her life.”

The accident occurred about 2:40 p.m. Thursday, about 10 minutes after Miss Lyons and two friends, Sarah H. Stull, 17, of 91 Prospect Mountain Road, and Frank C. VanOrmer, 17, of 60 Meadow St., left school. She was driving Stull’s 1988 Acura Integra, apparently learning to handle a standard transmission.

The two passengers were treated at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington and released.

Miss Lyons had a learner’s permit and was to take her driver’s test in two weeks. She’d been through a driver education course, but had only driven a car with an automatic transmission, her mother said.

Although Miss Lyons wanted to get a driver’s license since she turned 16, her mother held out, partly because of the disease. They finally agreed she could get her license this spring.

“I didn’t want her to get it in winter,” her mother said.

State police said the accident remains under investigation. State law requires a driver with a learner’s permit to be accompanied by a driver who is at least 20 and has been licensed at least four years.

Friday, more than 100 friends and relatives visited Miss Lyons’ home to console her family and remember her.

Miss Lyons was recalled as a good student, accomplished flutist, a leader, a skilled soccer player and a person always willing to volunteer her time. “You never had to worry about her not getting along with someone,” said her father, Gary Lyons, of Adams, Mass. “You just liked her.” In athletics, Miss Lyons’ passion was soccer. She grew to love the game while playing in youth leagues in Farmington.

The soccer bug stayed with her when her family moved to Litchfield in 1994. A year later, when she began her freshman year at Litchfield High School, she tried out for the boys’ soccer team because there was no girls’ team.

She made the team, then began working with her father to get school officials to form a girls soccer team. They did, and for two seasons she was a team captain and a key player. Lyons said his daughter had recently taken up skiing on expert trails with him. “She was just a natural . . . and just went for it,” he said.

“She was just curious about adventure and had to experience things. I think early on she learned about and appreciated the self-confidence she gained by doing things like that. She just had a thirst for it.”

She was also on the track team, but soccer was her first love.

“I remember her first goal,” her father recalled. “It was great. I got to the game late and I saw her and I was coming toward the goal and she was running right for the goal as fast as she could and I just screamed at her, `Kelsley, aim for my face.’ And she nailed it.”

She had recently signed up for a women’s under-19 soccer league, said her stepfather, Andy Thibault, a longtime Connecticut journalist.

Her soccer coach, Cindy Ferrarotti, said Miss Lyons was a star player who put the team before personal glory.

“In the first half of the season she was a leading scorer,” Ferrarotti said. “I asked her to move from the striker position back to a sweeper, which is the last defense before goal. She saved an awful lot of shots on goal.”

“Some kids would whine and say, `I want to stay in my position,’ but she did exactly what I told her and she did it well.”

She was an honorable mention All-Berkshire League soccer player.

When she wasn’t playing soccer, she often volunteered in the community. “She’s very civic minded,” Thibault said. “She was making lasagna for the firehouse guys [Tuesday], and she had a lot of friends with the auxiliary.” She also worked at the Litchfield Inn.

Miss Lyons had begun looking at colleges and planned to study physical therapy, Thibault said.

As a sophomore she was inducted into music and foreign language honor societies. She also volunteered as a peer educator, participated in the band, chorus and school plays, and was a member of a local organization called Teen Alliance.

In addition to her mother, father and stepfather, Miss Lyons is survived by three brothers, Lucas, Jacob and Marcus Thibault, and her grandparents.


November 27, 2011|Lori Riley

In first grade, Kelsley Lyons’ family discovered that she had a form of hemophilia called Von Willebrand disease.

She had always been an assertive, confident child. But she lost a little of that confidence after an accident at school in second grade that caused her to wind up in the pediatric ICU at Yale-New Haven Hospital for 10 days.

Soccer brought the real Kelsley back, her mother Lora Lyons-Thibault said. She loved the sport and played in Farmington before her family moved to Litchfield.

She played for the Litchfield Soccer Club but once she reached high school, there was no girls soccer team. She played instead with the JV boys team her freshman year.

Now the story gets murky and dissolves a little into a he-said-she-said account. But there are two facts that stand out: 1. Encouraged by her mother and stepfather, Andy Thibault, Kelsley and her father filed a Title IX complaint in 1995, and, 2. Soon afterward, Litchfield High put together a girls soccer program.

Kelsley got to play for two years with the girls — first on the inaugural JV team and then on varsity — before she died in a car accident the spring of her junior year. She was co-captain of both teams.

On Friday, her mother said that Kelsley would have loved to see how far the Litchfield girls soccer team had come in the last 16 years.

On Saturday, Litchfield played in its first Class S championship game, losing to Immaculate, 3-0, at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury..

“I graduated in ’96 from [Torrington High School] and when I think about that being the time frame for all of this to happen, it’s amazing,” Litchfield’s fifth-year coach Brian Mongeau said. “It’s one thing to be successful, but another thing to come here and make history.”

“It’s amazing to be here,” Litchfield senior captain Staci Shuhi said. “It was a thrill. We have our whole town behind us.”

It wasn’t always that way, according to Lyons-Thibault. There were a number of girls in the Litchfield Soccer Club who wanted to play but she said her and her husband’s initial advances to the school and the school board — in the mid-1990s, when most schools already had girls soccer — were rebuffed.

“They gave us the brushoff,” Lyons-Thibault said.

Suzi D’Annolfo, then Litchfield High’s principal, said on Saturday that wasn’t true.

“They wanted a girls program right now,” said D’Annolfo, who now teaches at the University of Hartford. “But that’s not the way you do things.

“There was never ever any doubt we would have a program. It was just making sure that two things happened — one, we had to go through proper channels to put a program in place, and in the meantime, any girls who wanted to play soccer had the opportunity to play on the boys team.”

Karissa Niehoff, now the executive director of the CIAC, was the Litchfield High field hockey coach at the time. She was at Saturday’s game.

“I think it was more a groundswell of the community not understanding all the different things the school has to consider [when adding a team],” Niehoff said. “Eventually [the school] did all those things in the right way. I don’t think they needed to file a Title IX petition. They may have perceived it as resistance at the school level, but Suzi wasn’t resisting it.”

Lyons-Thibault said that one of the issues cited was cost, so she did research to find out how much it would cost to have a program. To save money, she said, one idea was that the girls could wear the boys’ old uniforms.

“They told me there were certain things that needed to be done,” she said. “I took the list and researched each item and I brought it to the school board. We were rebuffed again. It was not pleasant. The school board basically told us we were new in town, how dare we ask for something.”

In the summer of 1995, they had a family meeting. Did Kelsley really want to go forward with this? Yes, she did. The complaint was filed with the Office of Civil Rights and the issue was quickly resolved. By September, the school had responded and would start an intramural program immediately for grades 7-12. The following year, Litchfield would offer a JV team and the next year, a varsity team.

Doug Parker, the former president of the Litchfield Soccer Club, was also at the game Saturday. He witnessed the rapid growth of interest in girls soccer during his tenure in the 1990s.

“There was an interest and growth in girls soccer but when they got up to the high school level, they had nowhere to go,” Parker said. “That was part of it.

“[Andy Thibault] pushed the envelope and Kelsley was the pioneer. The girls program really exploded. We had a lot of girls coming up through. You’re seeing the results of that today.

“Now there’s probably an equal number of girls, if not more girls, than boys [in the soccer club].”


Saturday, March 3, 2012

re Joyce part 3


He went by the quieter way nothing so annoying as small town tourist traffic feeding sharks, two local police SUV’s flashing lights clog main street to harass some elderly New Yorker who double parked to drop a letter in the post box. A quick drop off now in true police wisdom blocks the intersection for at least a half hour. Gallows hill brought him out behind all that. Right turn then left past the cemetery regiment GAR, immigrant Ireland, Poland, Italy, Japan, sisters, brothers, priests and the girl with the funny name, Kelsley who had the same surname as he. How many years how many cemetery miles walked, and other than his own direct family never seen his own surname upon the stone? Right again, past the frozen pond where this past autumn ducks, herons, seabirds , turtles and G-E-E-S-E! spotted by the child. Then between the two smaller ponds, either side of the school drive way. It was there they’d stopped, watch the first beaver she had ever seen, keen eyes of hers noticed ripples on the water as they were heading home after her first day in American school. He’d stopped the car along the roadside. They stood there for about a half hour before Mr. Beaver disappeared. At the top of the hill turned yet again into the parking lot, parked. Waiting watching for signs of school being over, made notes in a black notebook heard a radio interview and live music Madeleine Peyroux. Had been certain it was Billie Holiday. Listen now, maybe playing local, the wife would love that. It was greying up again cold enough to cause his fingers pain. Few more minutes and the little treasure would be his again.
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