Dairy Center exhibit celebrates 'Butter Cow Lady'
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 08/02/2012 2:06 PM
CALMAR, Iowa — Artist Norma "Duffy" Lyon, affectionately known as the "Butter Cow Lady," loved sharing her talents.
Lyon's art work is now on display for people to enjoy thanks to an exhibit established by the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation in the front lobby of the Dairy Center at Calmar.
Not only are there pieces of art, photographs and memorabilia from Lyon, works are also displayed from other artists. A timeline of Lyon's life as printed in the Swiss Valley Dairyman is woven into the exhibit.
A dedication of the exhibit was held during the recent Breakfast on the Farm at the Dairy Center.
Lyon sculpted the butter cow at the Iowa State Fair for more than four decades, eventually adding other butter sculptures including Elvis, American Gothic and the Last Supper. She died June 26, 2011.
Megan Kregel, coordinator of the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation and Dairy Center, designed the exhibit with assistance from Dairy Foundation members and NICC staff. She worked with Lyon's family to select the art work. Photographs of Lyon's permanent Jersey cattle sculptures near Toledo and at the Iowa State University dairy farm in Ames are displayed along with photos of Lyon sculpting butter pieces.
"The project started in January with just an idea from Kent Nelson that Dennis Cline brought up at one of our program committee meetings," Kregel said. "From there, I, Dennis, Jane Munden-Brown and Kyra Bellrichard with Northeast Iowa Community College, and Jenn Bentley with ISU Extension and Outreach came up a plan to properly honor Duffy."
"I saw this as an opportunity to recognize and memorialize Duffy and also provide a place to recognize dairy art," said Kent Nelson, founder of Nelson Dairy Consultants in Decorah. "We want this to be a starting place for dairy art not only from northeast Iowa but around the world."
Members of Lyon's family were on hand for the dedication.
"We're very appreciative," said Eric Lyon, Duffy Lyon's son. "One of the great things about Mom's hobby —and it turned into a little more than a hobby —was all the people she interacted with and made acquaintance with."
"We're very happy about this," said Duffy's husband, Joe. "To have this exhibit of Duffy's work means a lot to us. It's done very professionally. It's been a year since Duffy passed on, and she'd be very happy to see this. She loved the public and dairy people, and dairy people loved her."
Joe Lyon said lots of thanks go to Kregel and Nelson.
Norma Duffield Stong was born on July 29, 1929, in Nashville. She studied animal science at ISU in the late 1940s, when the American sculptor Christian Petersen was an artist in residence there. His encouragement led her to take several of his studio classes before graduating in 1951.
Lyon met Joe at ISU, and they were married in 1950. Shortly after college, they joined Joe's family's Jersey operation at Toledo where they raised nine children.