PASSINGS: Leon Lyon, Sandro, Leon Yao Liang, George W. Trippon

Leon Lyon

O.C. builder, arts patron

Leon Lyon, 89, an Orange County developer, financier and philanthropist, died Dec. 15 at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach of complications from congestive heart failure, his family announced.

A Newport Beach resident, Lyon was the brother of prominent Orange County home builder William Lyon. Together they founded Luxury Homes in 1954 and became leaders in the suburban Southern California housing boom until selling the company in 1968.


Although his brother, nicknamed the General, stayed in the housing business, Lyon retired and moved with his wife, Molly, from Fullerton to Newport Beach and nurtured their passion for art collecting.

He served on the board of trustees of the Newport Harbor Art Museum and helped raise funds for the institution’s move to a larger facility, now called the Orange County Museum of Art. He continued to serve on the board there as well as the Orange County Philharmonic Society and the Laguna College of Art and Design.

Born May 1, 1920, Lyon was the son of a Los Angeles businessman whose beverage wholesale company was a major importer and distributor of the Mexican liqueur Kahlua in the United States.

After graduating from USC in 1942, Lyon served in the Marine Corps during World War II.


After the war, he joined the family business, later moving on to the finance industry and serving as president of Guardian Thrift and Loan.

Lyon’s wife died in 2003. He married Barbara Baker Burnham in 2005. She survives him, along with his brother; two sons, Bruce and Curt; a daughter, Linda Othenin-Girard;, five stepchildren; six grandchildren; and 17 step-grandchildren.


Argentine singer likened to Elvis

Sandro, 64, an Argentine singer whose gyrating pelvis and romantic ballads brought comparisons to Elvis Presley, died Monday of complications from heart and lung transplant surgery.

Sandro, who recorded 52 albums, acted in 16 movies and was awarded a Latin Grammy for career achievement in 2005, suffered from chronic lung disease that led to the Nov. 20 surgery. He died at the Italian Hospital in the Argentine city of Mendoza, said Dr. Claudio Burgos.

Born Roberto Sanchez in 1945 in Buenos Aires, he was the author of hits such as “Asi” (“Like That”) and “Dame Fuego” (“Give Me Fire”), and his rock and pop tunes won him fame throughout Latin America.

Originally lead guitarist for the band Los de Fuego, Sanchez took over singing duties, became the group’s front man and adopted the moniker Sandro.


Sandro y Los de Fuego made its TV debut in 1964 on “Circular Saturdays,” one of the nation’s most popular shows. He soon earned the reputation as Argentina’s Elvis Presley.

The band recorded two albums before Sandro went solo, turning to a more melodic repertoire and entering the “romantic” genre with classics such as “Quiero Llenarme de Ti” (“I Want to Fill Myself With You”); in 1969, he made his silver screen debut in a movie with the same title.

A later film, “La Vida Continua” (“Life Goes On”), was a hit not only in Argentina but in much of Latin America.

In 1982, Sandro signed with a Puerto Rican TV channel to star in the telenovela “Fue sin querer” (“I Didn’t Mean to Do It”), which was popular among U.S. Latinos.

Leon Yao Liang

Imprisoned Chinese bishop

Leon Yao Liang, 87, a bishop in China’s underground church who was imprisoned for more than 28 years under the communists, died Dec. 30 in the northern township of Xiwanzi, where he had been auxiliary bishop since 2002, the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation reported.

Yao had held the position in defiance of the government-sanctioned Patriotic Catholic Assn., which has no official relations with the Vatican and does not recognize the pope’s right to appoint bishops.


Born in a farming village in the northern province of Hebei in 1923, Yao was ordained a priest in 1946 and assigned as assistant pastor, the Kung foundation said.

Yao’s religious activities came under increasing restrictions after the 1949 seizure of power by the officially atheistic Communist Party, which reviled Catholicism as a religion and as a reminder of China’s past weakness in the face of expansionist European powers.

As the political climate worsened, Yao was forced into a labor camp in 1956, and, two years later, sentenced to life imprisonment for refusing to renounce his loyalty to Rome, the foundation said.

His release came in 1984, eight years after the death of Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung, although, like other released priests, his activities remained tightly restricted.

According to France’s Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture, Yao was held for an additional 2 1/2 years beginning in 2006. The group said Yao attracted about 1,000 parishioners to his weekly masses.

George W. Trippon, a longtime Los Angeles fashion designer and host of the cable TV show “Sew What’s New,” died Jan. 1. He was 93.

-- times staff and wire reports