Remembering Squaw Valley pastor Lee Stryhanyn
|Pastor Lee's passions were evangelism and helping others, but when he wasn't doing that he could be found hiking in the nearby mountains and hills. By: Contributed
A long-time Squaw Valley pastor has sadly succumbed to his battle with cancer.
Lee Stryhanyn, the pastor of the Zion Mountain Christian Center in Squaw Valley for 26 years, (formally known as Squaw Valley Christian Fellowship)-Lee died last week. He was 63.
The Zion Mountain Christian Center services have been held every Sunday at the Mountain Valley Fire Department’s firehouse number three on Chuckwagon Road. Although the church membership only numbers 25, Stryhanyn’s impact was far-reaching.
“He was a wonderful father who left a wonderful legacy,” Lee’s daughter, Sarah, said.
Bonnie Stryhanyn, Lee’s wife of 38 years, recalls serving alongside her husband for numerous street evangelism events in Fresno, as well as local outreach activities. She said Lee never took a day off and was available to help those in need 365 days a year.
“He loved people. He loved helping people. He was a loving, caring man who never turned anyone away no matter what time of day,” Bonnie said. “He didn’t have office hours.”
Sarah remembers her father often answering the phone during the middle of the night to help those in distress. Although being a pastor was his first love, Lee also enjoyed spending time outdoors, including hiking and traveling to the coast. Above all, Sarah said he wanted to make sure that everyone knew about Jesus.
“He loved helping people. It didn’t matter who they were or what they looked like,” she said.
Over the years, Lee performed numerous weddings and funerals, and was loved by many in the community. He also helped start a monthly food ministry in Squaw Valley that continues to help needy families. He frequently visited local prisons to minister to prisoners as well.
Lee was a graduate of Bethany Bible College in Santa Cruz. While attending seminary classes in Fresno, he answered an advertisement for a part-time pastor in Squaw Valley at Mountain Valley Community Church. Shortly thereafter, Lee founded Zion Mountain Christian Center and began holding church services in his home. Church services were later moved to St. Nicholas Ranch and eventually the fire station.
Congregation members Ernie and Diane Fox met Lee in 1998 when they first moved to Squaw Valley and joined Zion Mountain Christian Center. “You could see Jesus in his life through his reaching out to the community and his love for people,” Diane said.
Lee would call Ernie regularly to ask him for help in doing odd jobs for local residents such as fixing a plumbing leak. Lee always helped those in need, no matter what the problem. Diane said Lee especially loved the elderly. She remembers Lee visiting her step dad and bringing him donuts. Diane was particularly impressed when Lee drove from Squaw Valley to Salinas to visit her son in the hospital when he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and had only a few months to live.
“We had only been members of the church for about a year and he drove all the way to Salinas to pray for my son in the hospital,” Diane said.
A favorite pastime for the Foxes and Stryhanyns would be to catch a train from Fresno to Hanford and go to dinner and ice cream, something they did at least once a year.
“Lee was a man of faith. He encouraged us. We saw his love for people. He was real and humble,” Diane said. “He loved his family and was devoted to his children and his wife.”
Diane said Lee baptized many of her family members.
“He got down amongst the people like Jesus did. You could see Christ in his life,” she said.
In Lee's absence, Church services will be temporarily led by Steve Odom. Steve and his wife, Linda, started the “overcomers outreach” together with Lee. The ministry is designed to help those with all types of addictions overcome their struggles.
Lee served in the Navy between 1969 and 1973 as an aviation ordinance man aboard the U.S.S. Midway during the Vietnam War. Funeral services for Lee will be held on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. at the Lee Hull residence in Squaw Valley. He will be buried with full military honors including a 21-gun salute. Lee and Bonnie have five children and three grandchildren.
- I will always remember Lee - there are , very few men like him..He showed me how to give..I followed his great example that helped me to help others...Lee once said to me
- ... "I prayed the simplest prayer for you Jim...but you did more with that prayer (to help others) than anybody I ever prayed for.."