Obituary: Byron Hiller Light

Grandfather, minister, pianist, peace activist

The youngest of three children born to the Rev. Lyman M. and Viva S. Light, Byron entered Southern California life through St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, on December 16, 1931.


His parents came to California from Illinois in 1921, to serve in the California Conference of the Evangelical Church (later E.U.B., now United Methodist). As a “P.K.” (preacher’s kid), he lived in Long Beach, San Bernardino, Ontario, Los Angeles and Burbank, graduating from high school in 1949.


Wanting to experience another part of the country, he applied to North Central College, in Naperville, Illinois, graduating in 1953 after having been very active in campus life, including being a consummate prankster, sometimes finding it difficult to set aside study time!  


Returning to California, he quickly fell in love with the Bay Area while attending Pacific School of Religion (PSR). North Hollywood Congregational Church, where his uncle, Shelby J. Light was minister, received him into membership the Sunday before he entered PSR.


In 1956 he was called to be associate minister of First Congregational Church, Riverside. He retired as senior minister of First Congregational Church UCC, in Pasadena, in 1996. Between those years he also served Lake Murray Congregational Church in La Mesa, California; the Southern California UCC Conference as minister of church extension, in Belmont, California;  Congregational USS; and for his longest ministry, 18 years as senior minister of First Congregational UCC, San Bernardino.


Part of his responsibilities at the Riverside church entailed working with UCC students on the campus of the University of California, Riverside. There he met Patricia Crowley, director of university religious conference on campus. Their wedding took place on December 19, 1959 in the First Congregational Church, Riverside, with Mrs. Light’s minister, Allen Hunter, Mr. Light’s father, and his mentor (and boss), Philip G. Murray, officiating.


Their daughter, Nancy, a Russian language and history graduate, works for The Nature Conservancy in fundraising; her husband Chris also works for The Nature Conservancy. His son, Roger, a former U.S. Marine, teaches high school in San Bernardino alongside his wife JJ. Roger’s daughter, Hailey, is their only grandchild.


As a high school student, Mr. Light studied piano and organ with Marion Reiff Craighead at First Congregational Church, Los Angeles. Music was an important part of his life. One of the  requirements for moving in to Pilgrim Place was a living room large enough to contain a full-size electronic organ. 


He enjoyed spending time at the family’s cabin in June Lake, on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. Baking, reading and crossword puzzles filled large portions of his time.


Mr. and Mrs. Light entered Pilgrim Place on Sept. 3, 1997. He served on the Pilgrim Place Board of Directors, was chair of the Pilgrim Festival as well as working with the snack bar, bakes and  sweets, and popcorn. He was also a member of the dining services advisory group.  


Byron requested any memorial gifts be made to Foothill Aids Project at, or by check to 678 S. Indian Hill Blvd., Suite 220, Claremont, CA  91711.


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