In Memoriam: Leon J. Lysaght, Jr.


With faith in Christ and hope in the resurrection, we share news of the repose of Leon J. Lysaght, Jr., who served on the Board of Trustees at St Vladimir’s Seminary from 1997 to 2014.

Leon Joseph Lysaght Jr. (Rocky) peacefully departed this earthly life on Dec. 2, 2022, while his family and priest held vigil by his bedside. Leon was born Aug. 25, 1940, to his devoted parents, Helen and Leon Lysaght, Sr. in Butte, Montana. He had an idyllic childhood immersed in Serbian and Butte culture, and he was blessed to have grown up around his beloved grandparents, Soke and Jovo Vucanovich. The profound intellectual and spiritual guidance fostered by his father and grandfather incited Leon's evolving and passionate thirst for knowledge, truth, and his Eastern Orthodox Christian faith.

As an aspiring student-athlete, Leon started his academic journey at Whitman College, majoring in Philosophy. He excelled at track and field and was deeply influenced by his distinguished college track coach, Bill Martin. His philosophical studies inspired an interest in the field of law, and Leon earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School. After practicing law in Helena, Montana, and serving in the United States military as a medic, Leon received a teaching fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a Ph.D. in Philosophy. This led to an academic career in which he taught philosophy and law at five universities, in three countries, and on two continents.

Leon's first faculty position was at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, teaching philosophy, which led to a teaching position at Queen's University Belfast in Ireland. After receiving a professorship offer at the University of Detroit School of Law, he and his family moved to Michigan. This position progressed into a distinguished academic career that spanned four decades, which also included serving on the University of Windsor Faculty of Law. His greatest vocational joy was engaging in intellectual discussions with colleagues and students. Leon was born to serve as a teacher. He impacted thousands of students and received numerous teaching awards throughout his career. He was also instrumental in founding the Dual JD Program between the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and the University of Windsor Faculty of Law.

In conjunction with his professional teaching accomplishments, Leon sought to deepen his understanding of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith. He served for two decades on the Board of Trustees at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and he developed numerous initiatives and theological dialogues with Orthodox theologians in the United States and abroad. During his long tenure on the Board of Trustees, he served as Chairman of the Legal, Academic Affairs and Statue Revision Committees as well as being a member of the Executive Committee. He took the lead and helped to establish new academic programs and initiatives for the Seminary. Through his leadership, dedication, and skills he played an important role for the cause of theological education at St. Vladimir's Seminary. Upon his retirement in 2014, the Board elected him as Trustee Emeritus, and he was given a gramota in appreciation for his many years of dedicated service.

Fellow long-time SVOTS trustee, Alex Machaskee, served on the board for many years with Leon, and remarked in tribute, “It was a pleasure to serve with Leon on St. Vladimir's Seminary board because of his legal intellect, love of the seminary and candid, constructive suggestions.  He took a strong interest in all seminarians and was especially helpful to the Serbian students. May his memory be eternal.”

Leon also found ways to integrate his legal knowledge with his faith by serving as Advisor to the Episcopal Council and Member of the Central Church Council Legal Risk and Compliance Committee of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central, and South America, and as Consultant to the Legal Matters Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. Additionally, he was a founding member of the Orthodox Christian Attorneys Network. He was the proud recipient of the Czar Dushan Award from the Serbian Bar Association of America.

In 2015, Leon and his cherished wife and spiritual partner, Pam, moved to Glen Arbor permanently after being summer residents since 1994. They became founding members of St. Sebastian Orthodox Christian Church in Traverse City. Leon was filled with gratitude and great joy to see the parish grow well beyond its founding members.

Throughout his life, Leon was a devoted father and grandfather and was passionate about photographing and chronicling their countless activities. Leon's intellectual and spiritual footprint will be greatly missed, but his teachings and his memory will be celebrated by all those he has touched, and most certainly by his family, whose love for him is eternal.

Leon is survived by his loving wife, Pam; his children, Aidan (Carolina, who is a second daughter to him) and Tupper Wierbicki (Robert); and his grandchildren, whom he loved beyond measure, Nolan Lysaght, Cielo Lysaght, Soren Wierbicki, Vuko Wierbicki, and Stevan Martinez (Samantha) whom he considered another grandson.

Service schedule:

Friday, December 9, 2022

6 - 8 PM: Visitation at St. Sebastian Orthodox Christian Church 

8 PM:  Trisagion Service at the Church

Saturday, December 10, 2022 

Private Liturgy and Funeral Service for the Family


In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Leon's name to any of the following organizations: 

  • St. Sebastian Orthodox Christian Church, Building Fund 1396 Douglas Drive, Suite 22C, Traverse City, MI 49696
  • the Leelanau Conservancy, 105 North First Street, P.O. Box 1007, Leland, MI 49654
  • Glen Arbor Art Center, 6031 S. Lake Street, P.O. Box 305, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

This article was adapted and reprinted from obituaries.record-eagle.com.