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In Memoriam: Lyle Bauman

Beloved Grinnellian and former Dining Hall supervisor Lyle F. Bauman, Jr. passed away peacefully at home on Tuesday, March 18, surrounded by family and close friends. Bauman, 58, was a two-time honorary graduate of Grinnell College, a welcoming host to generations of Grinnellians and the namesake of Lyle’s Pub. Bauman’s death dealt a painful blow for many in the Grinnell community, who never failed to find comfort and joy in his presence.

Dining Hall supervisor Lyle F. Bauman, Jr. passed away on March 18 and will be greatly missed. Photo contributed.
Dining Hall supervisor Lyle F. Bauman, Jr. passed away on March 18 and will be greatly missed.
Photo contributed.

Throughout his life, Bauman was loved for his unfailingly supportive demeanor, his larger-than-life passions for everything he did and everyone he met and his willingness to make a friend wherever he was.

“[Lyle] knew no strangers, and that’s the best way to put it,” said Lyle’s brother, Roger Bauman, Equipment Room Supervisor at the Bear. “One of his friends said that they would go to the Chicago Cubs baseball game, and by the ninth inning everybody within 20 rows was friends. That’s just how Lyle was.”

There were few things that Bauman enjoyed more than making people happy, no matter how bad somebody’s day was.

“Even on your worst day, you knew you couldn’t fake it with Lyle. He always made you smile, in everything you did,” said Aaron Levin ’14. “A lot of people here can get wound up tight about a lot of things, but Lyle, he kept it loose and relaxed. You forgot all your troubles for the time being, because you’re talking to Lyle.”

Time and time again, Bauman demonstrated his love and appreciation for others through his unwavering support for family, friends and short-term strangers. His willingness to go above and beyond endeared him to all who knew him, and his actions were driven by the kind of Midwestern friendliness and humility that Grinnellians aspire to each and every day.

“[His daughter] Allison was in dance, and the parents had to get up and give a little skit based on what their kids’ hobbies were,” Roger Bauman said. “Lyle wore a tutu. He got up on stage and he did some little moves, which embarrassed other parents, but he was so proud of his kids, he didn’t care.”

Bauman went to great lengths to attend as many Grinnell events as he could and be as active a member of the community as possible, just as he did for his son Wyatt and daughter Allison. Lyle treated the Grinnell community like family, because everyone at Grinnell was family to him.

“I played volleyball for Cornell [College] my freshman year and we were playing at Grinnell,” Allison Bauman recalled. “My dad could not bring himself to just cheer for Cornell, so he had a shirt made that was half purple and half red with the word ‘Nell’ on it, because he considered both schools to be his families.”

As an acknowledgement of all that Bauman did for the students of Grinnell, a student initiative was passed to name the Pub after him.

“Naming the pub after him was the right thing to do,” Levin said. “When you walk in … remember his smile, who he was and what he did for others.”

Kim Bauman, his wife of 33 years, remembered the special place Grinnell had in Bauman’s heart.

“[Lyle] loved the Grinnell community, and he did what he could to support it. He loved the students,” Kim Bauman said. “They made his day. He thought of them as his kids, and they made going to work worthwhile.”

While Bauman dedicated himself to bringing smiles to the world in simple but meaningful ways, he never missed an opportunity to deploy good-hearted pranks that brought tears to the eyes of those who saw him in action.

One memorable example was the age-old trick Bauman played on the Grinnell women’s soccer team when they went to visit him at home.

“Lyle loved to take the soccer girls ‘snipe hunting,’ but there was no such thing. He was just pulling their leg,” Kim Bauman said. “It was absolutely hilarious. We live right beside the golf course, and he had them out there banging pots and pans pretending that they were getting [birds] out of the woods.”

Almost everyone he knew has a story of Bauman going out of his way to help them.

“Lyle was the baseball team’s lucky charm … and when I was in first or second grade he had a jello-wrestling contest with two Grinnell students for fundraising,” Allison Bauman said. “He lost.”

Bauman had a lot to teach everyone about what it meant to enjoy the simple pleasures in life and to pursue what you love.

“He loved everything. He loved collecting guns, liked to hunt, liked to fish. He and I would go down to Missouri flea markets because he just liked seeing what everybody had,” Roger Bauman recalled. “He loved to sell fruit on the street corner, and he’d do that just to meet people.”

When Bauman was given fewer than six weeks to live in November 2013 he refused to be bitter about his situation and spent his last days doing what he had always done: making people feel happy and loved.

“Lyle’s goal was to make it to his anniversary, which was on the 15th of March. He made that goal,” Roger Bauman said. “Before he passed, he organized everything. Lyle wanted to take the burden off of his wife … rather than giving her so much pressure to figure everything out.”

When Bauman was not helping anyone and everyone he could, he spent his time in the outdoors pheasant or deer hunting and fishing, two of his favorite lifelong passions. Just as in everything else he did, Bauman invited anyone who was interested to come and spend time in the outdoors with him.

“He didn’t care who it was that went with him. If it was a new experience for them, he loved bringing them,” Roger Bauman said. “He loved seeing their excitement for that new experience.”

Grinnell Executive Chef Scott Turley met Bauman on his first day of work 15 years ago, and feels that every day after that was enriched by Bauman’s friendship.

“We talked about what makes a man wealthy: was it money, fame or fortune,” Turley wrote in an email to the S&B. “We all realized we were richer for knowing Lyle.”

For the Bauman family, continuing Lyle’s legacy of generosity and caring is the best way to remember and honor his life.

“Lyle had a high school diploma, which shows that you don’t have to have a lot of money or be a famous person to be a good person and make an impact in this world,” Kim Bauman said. “The sad part is the freshmen won’t know who Lyle is. The kids who are coming to Grinnell, they’ll just see a picture of some guy in the Pub … We hope that everybody just does their best and pays it forward.”

There’s no better way of saying it than Bauman himself did a few months before he passed away, expressing his love for unity and charity.

“My dad wanted to be an angel that lets people know it’s okay to ask others for help and support, that God expected that we will always work together to form one body of Christ and help each other every day,” Allison Bauman said.

For students who wish to express their condolences and share their memories of Lyle and were unable to do so during spring break, a student memorial is being organized and details will be published soon.

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  • J

    Jessica ByerlyMay 2, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I am an ’11 grad and they renamed the pub after Lyle while I was in school at Grinnell. I didn’t work in the dining hall, but every time I went in for meals, Lyle always said hi to me and smiled at me. He was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever known and you could tell he cared about the students so much. His bright spirit will be missed by all who knew him and Grinnell will miss him terribly.

  • J

    Jonathan IsmailApr 21, 2014 at 4:55 am

    Excellently written article, Steve! I know Lyle and his family well – you did a great job capturing everything accurately, and in a way which represents both the facts and his spirit.

  • D

    David NathanApr 10, 2014 at 9:58 am

    You were a great guy, Lyle. We miss you.

    David Nathan ’01

  • D

    Danette MooreApr 6, 2014 at 8:40 am

    I worked for Lyle in 1990. He was a kind, funny, and caring man. He made people feel important. Prayers for his family.

  • D

    dian henslick schuellerApr 5, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Our son Jim Schueller, graduated in ’03 and to this day speaks highly and kindly and gratefully of Lyle.
    Jim says he will emulate Lyle’s life as best he can.
    Though I didn’t know Lyle, it is clear that the world is a better place for having Lyle in it.
    So sorry for your loss.
    Dian Henslick Schueller

  • M

    Marjorie ChristinsonApr 5, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I really enjoyed your article in the Scarlet and Black. I am a cousin of Lyle’s and was wondering if I could receive a paper copy of the article about him. Also, I have heard about the Pub named after him and would like to see it but was told it was for only Grinnell College Students. Is this true or would I be able to see what it looks like. I live right here in Grinnell. Thank you for your nice article. He certainly was “one of a kind” person.

  • R

    RON LAVENDER '50Apr 4, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    What a marvelous encomium, skillfully and passionately drafted. I, of course, didn’t know the fellow, but reading the article causes me, or anyone else who might read it, with the wish to have known him.

  • R

    Robyn BerardoApr 4, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Wow! Thank you for such a wonderful story on Lyle. I had the pleasure to know Lyle back when I lived in Brooklyn years ago and then here at the College. He would ABSOLUTELY light up a room when he came in to it! He always remembered your name. This story gave me even more insight into what a wonderful, caring, humble person and family man he was. A definite loss for the campus community, but memories of him will live on for a very long time here.