Yesterday, after receiving the news that Jennifer Lyon had lost her battle with breast cancer, I asked some of her fellow Survivor cast members, alumni, reality stars and closest friends to offer their favorite memory of a girl that touched and changed all of our lives for the better.
Here’s what they had to say, starting with Katie Gallagher from Survivor Palau, Jenn’s best friend.
“My sweet friend Jenn. I remember the first time I met her, we had a conversation in the beautiful waters of Palau. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t a 17 year-old Disney Princess! In fact, she was not only beautiful, intelligent, cultured, kind and hilarious!! We have laughed so hard together that we actually had to separate to catch our breath. She was down to dress up in costume with me at the drop of a hat and have a dance party all over the house, just the two of us! She left me with so many beautiful memories…I still can’t believe she is gone. I know she’s dancing in the skies, flying on a peaguses with the tunes of her favorite Abba reverberating through the clouds! She truly the most beautiful spirit inside and out and I am the luckiest person in the world to have spent a portion of my life with her. I just hope I made her laugh everytime I saw her, that was my goal. I love my Jenn and I already miss her.” – Katie Gallagher (Survivor Palau
“It’s sad to lose someone so tough and so sweet from our Survivor family. I will always remember her from Survor Palau and our fellowship at the charity events we did together, where she showed everyone her strength and her character. Those memories remind me how special my Survivor family is to me.” – Rupert Boneham (Survivor Pearl Islands, All-Stars, Heroes vs. Villains
“It was being her teammate in the Houston Challenge. She felt well enough for the first time in a long time to do something physical. No matter her condition, she won the hearts of her team, the fans and her opponents. This was showcased when Debbie took off her immunity necklace to save Jenn. and in true JENN LYON fashion she told everyone to please vote for Steve because he deserved it. She was and still is God’s special angel.” – Boo Bernis, Survivor Fiji
I first met Jenn at a Cocoa Beach charity event, where she was one of my roommates. I remember her vibrant energy, positive attitude and friendly smile. She will be missed dearly. – Stacy Kimball, Survivor Fiji
“I met Jenn for the first time at the 10-year Survivor Anniversary Party. It was a week and a half before she passed away. I felt as if I’d known her all my life, though. I’d followed her fight with cancer and I’d prayed for her many times and sent her notes of encouragement along the way, but had never met her face to face. I remember thinking how amazing it was that she was there…she wouldn’t have missed being with her friends for the world. Her warmth and sincerity were instantaneous and I knew I had made a friend for life. I realized quickly that she is gifted at making others feel special because she genuinely cares about people and how privileged her close friends are to have known her on a deeper level. I wish I’d had the chance to get to know her on a deeper level. As blessed as I felt to embrace her just once and chat for a few short minutes, I can only imagine what a blessing it would have been to have known her better before she passed. She made quite an impact on all of us. She will always be loved and missed.” – Leslie Nease, Survivor China
Jenn was such a beautiful person. I wish life was as simple as Survivor
because I know for a fact there are 300 of us that would use every immunity idol and jury vote in the world to have her back. – Jonny Fairplay (Survivor Pearl Islands, Survivor Fans vs. Favorites
I was fortunate to see and briefly chat with Jenn at the Survivor viewing party last December. It was a fundraiser for her cause.
As Jenn shared herself with us you could see the great pain that was just below her beautiful exterior. Every movement was deliberate and paced. Getting up or sitting down were tasks that took enormous strength and will power.
I was amazed and humbled by that strength.
Just 11 days ago she made an appearance at the 10th Anniversary Party and amongst all the hoopla you couldn’t miss the grace and dignity with which she carried herself. Never refusing a picture request or to speak to a fan.
Many will recall her extraordinary beauty, demure sweetness and zest for life … and those are all true sides of our friend.
But her tenacity in the face of overwhelming physical distress will live in me always.
She didn’t deserve this. And now the pain is no more.
Rest easy my friend … we will remember you always.
More than Love,
I am extremely saddened by Jenn’s passing! She was a remarkable woman both inside and out!!! She was a strong woman in all aspects of life! I had the opportunity to face her in competition where we met on Survivor Palau just 5 years ago. She was a fierce competitor who always gave me a run for my money but she was no doubt a good sport who welcomed a challenge. Not o mention looked stunning 24/7. She has Been a blessing to have in my life. She was classy, elegant, gentle, kind, loving, caring, supportive but most of all a fantastic friend. Jenn was the kind of person everyone wanted to b around her smile was piercing and contagious and she made u want to be better person just by being in her presence. Her family is one of the most beautiful families I have ever met no wonder Jenn was such a extraordinary individual. She leaves behind an amazing supportive boyfriend and companion, Dion and two beautiful puppies that she loved dearly!!!
Today is a very sad day for me!!! I have never had to deal w the death of anyone close I have known people that have died but no one tht has ever influenced my life. Jenn truly was an amazing positive influence in my life even though I only knew her a short time!!! Today the world and human race definitely lost one of it’s best but the heavens certainly gained an angle. She may b gone from this earth but her spirit and memory will live on in my heart forever!
Jenn please watch over us all we need your positive energy from above!!! U are very loved and sadly missed!!! – Stephenie LaGrossa (Survivor Palau, Guatemala, Heroes Fans Vs. Favorites)
My favorite memory of Jennifer is of the Houston Survivor Challenge. At the end when she had immunity but was willing to give it to me after she received it from Debra. Even though it could not happen, it showed her loving heart and willingness to give to others. – Steven Pickett (2010 Houston Survivor Challenge Winner)
Just five years ago, the Feb. 7, 2005, edition of In Touch magazine did a preview of the Palau season with the headline “The new Survivors are REAL Survivors!” The story featured Jonathan Libby, who had survived testicular cancer at age 23, and Tom Westman, who survived 9/11 in New York City, and others of the cast who survived poverty, accidents, and the murders of family members. It is ironic that the cast of “real Survivors” is the first cast to lose a much-beloved castmember.
The Feb. 13, 2005, edition of TV Guide quoted Jenn Lyon in preparation for the Palau contest: “This past week has been filled with emotions ranging from anxious to excited. My sister has been my coach. We’ve spent countless hours tying knots, balancing on beams, swimming, eating bugs (no just kidding!) I am ready! Game on!” Jenn’s preparation for the game was evident in strong challenge performances as well as a great social game based on real friendships that took her to fourth place. Remember what a tough competitor she was against Ulong in the one-on-one challenge knocking an opponent off a disc into the water?
Everyone loved Jenn. She was always kind, sweet, good, and thoughtful. I was one of the older players on my season, but there was never a generation gap with Jenn. She always engaged in cheerful conversation that was sincere, positive, and supportive of others. Jenn was never haughty or aloof from others, whether they were fans or less-successful castmates. She loved to go to Survivor events and renew old friendships. Whether it was Cocoa Beach, Florida, or Dodgeball on Long Island, NY, or the CBS reunion party in LA, Jenn was sure to be there. In my most recent email from her, she wrote that she was looking forward to going to the Catalina Island Survivor reunion this coming July, and she hoped to see me there if not before (perhaps at Dodgeball?).
Our email conversation discussed Thoreau’s comment when he left Walden, that he left there for as good a reason as he went there in the first place. He said he left because he had “other lives to live, and could spare no more time for that one.” We were discussing the many adventures possible in life, and Jenn said that like Thoreau, she believed in “many lives and many adventures,” by which she meant making use of her lifetime here to experience as much as possible, not only in breadth of travel experiences (of which she had many) but also in depth of relationships.
Our Palau cast had some of the best, most intelligent, most decent people of any season of Survivor. It was an honor to have been part of that group, and especially to have known Jenn and to have been among her many, many friends. As we grieve her loss, we celebrate her life and the joy of having known her. – Wanda Shirk (Survivor Palau)
My Memory of Jenn Lyon is her strong and cheerful spirit and her beautyful smile. I remember at last year’s dodgeball event we dedicated the whole event to her. To see her light up as we toasted her as she recieved a dodgeball with all of our signitures is a fond memory and the picture that pops in my mind when I think of Jenn. I know I’ll see her again someday. She is the best of us Survivors, now and always. – Billy Garcia (Survivor Cook Islands)
Smiling, always smiling. And it is bright enough to fill up a room. When I close my eyes and see her, really see her, she’s peacefully smiling and holding the space for me to smile as well.
Jenn, thank you for your light. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your smile.
May we all take a moment to give with our smiles the energy that Jenn so freely gave with hers. – Aras Baskauskas (Survivor Panama)
I had such an amazing time with Jenn every time I saw her. Whether it was at the Palau finale when I first met her back in 2005 or at any event we ever went to, I always looked forward to seeing her smiling face and knowing how much fun we would have together. We had a great time at the Houston Survivor Challenge this past fall. One night after a night out, Jenn, Eric Sanchez, Katie Gallagher and I came back to the hotel and I had been taped into my dress with what we call “boob tape” — well at this point in the night I was no longer worried about falling out of my dress and the tape was hurting me, so I ripped off these two strips of tape. Well, before I know it we’re having “fun with tape.” Jenn has the tape from the tip of her nose to her forehead and it is pulling her nose up in a pig-like way. Katie and I do the same. Eric takes one of the pieces of tape and colors it black with a sharpie and we start putting that on our faces as a unibrow. By this point we are all lying on the lobby floor in tears because we are laughing so hard. Katie exclaimed how unfair it was that even with the unibrow and pig nose, Jenn still looked beautiful (while the rest of us looked like freaks). The pictures don’t do that evening justice, but I will never forget all the times I just laughed with Jenn. I love her dearly and always will. – Eliza Orlins (Survivor Vanuatu, Fans vs. Favorites)