Iris Alicia Velez Wheatly Lanyon, 84, of Salem passed away peacefully on Saturday April 24th, 2021 at the Kaplan House Hospice Center, Danvers MA after her long battle with COVID.
Iris is pre-deceased by her loving husband of 40 years, Professor H. Peter D. Lanyon; and survived by her children; Lawrence (Larry) Wheatley and his wife Elizabeth, Michelle Hagerty and partner Fran Bates, Peter Lanyon and Vickie Cox-Lanyon and Jennifer Maria Mier; her 8 grandchildren who knew her fondly as “Abuela”; Alexandra and her fiancé Eric, Crystal and fiancé Joseph, Drew, Alison, Julia, Nathan, Samuel and Bethany and her nephew Roberto. She was the daughter of the late Dr. Ismael Velez and Lucia Irizarry-Velez and was pre-deceased by her brother Lester Velez.
Iris was born in Ponce, PR and spent her childhood years growing up on the campus of the Inter American University (IAU) in San German where her father was a professor of botany. She studied abroad in Sri Lanka and later earned a BA from her beloved IAU and a Master’s Degree in Geography from the University of Florida.
During her lifetime, Iris lived in Worcester, Holden and Auburn MA, San Juan and San German Puerto Rico (PR), South Carolina, Jacksonville FL and Sri Lanka. In 1969 Iris moved to Auburn MA with her children and first husband Kelvin Wheatley to head the Southbridge Highschool Bilingual program and pursue her Doctorate. She lived in Auburn until 1979 when she re-married and moved to Holden where she resided for 30 years. Following Peter’s death in 2008, Iris moved into The Willows in Worcester. In 2015, after an open-heart surgery and a stroke Iris moved to the John Bertram House in Salem where she resided until now.
Iris was a vibrant woman who never shied away from an adventure. Throughout her life, she traveled the world – from her early days accompanying her biologist father on research trips; to cruises and tours throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia; to family sailing trips in the Caribbean and Greek islands. She and Peter enjoyed many years of travel, classical music, great food, laughter and a love of crossword puzzles. They had a beautiful friendship with mutual respect and deep love for each other and spent their years together traveling the world.
Iris often served as the group's tour guide, showing off her unwavering sense of direction. After each trip, she created a scrapbook of photos, brochures and mementos. Iris generously shared her talents with a wide community of friends, acquaintances and extended family. She was an accomplished chef and she hosted many gatherings at her home, including memorable Three Kings Day parties. Iris also was an award-winning watercolorist whose work has exhibited in local shows. Her subject matter was frequently drawn from her travels. Her paintings grace the homes of family and friends around the world.
The family celebrated Iris’s life with family and friends on June 12, 2021. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in her name to the Centro Las Americas, 11 Sycamore Street, Worcester MA 01608
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