BALLSTON SPA – Twenty years have passed since Ballston Spa resident Suzanne Lyall went missing from the University at Albany campus. Last week, when Suzanne would have turned 40, a state lawmaker gave her mother, Mary, one of the Legislature’s highest honors for her related advocacy.
State Sen. Jim Tedisco (R-Glenville) presented Mary Lyall with the New York State Senate Liberty Medal for offering help to other families of missing persons across the nation, according to a prepared statement.
“Mary Lyall is a community hero and a wonderful person, who with her late husband, Doug, turned their personal tragedy into a mission to ensure that what happened to their family is never experienced by someone else’s family,” Tedisco said. “Mary Lyall’s crusade to help others and make New York and our nation safer represents the best of our state and is truly worthy of the senate’s highest honor, the Liberty Medal.”
Tedisco noted that Lyall is the first civilian who he has presented the award to since joining the senate. All of the past recipients in his district have been military veterans.
The Center for Hope in Ballston Spa, founded by the Lyalls, has been a national leader in efforts to help find missing persons, advocating for legislation and innovative programs at the state and federal levels.
Tedisco presented the Liberty Medal to Lyall on Saturday, April 7 at the state Museum and Cultural Education Center in Albany, as part of the 17th annual Missing Persons Day ceremony sponsored by the Center for Hope.
This year’s keynote speaker was Lisa Buske, whose sister, Heidi Allen, was kidnapped in 1994 from an Oswego convenience store and has never been found.
When reached for comment, Mary Lyall called the steady support from Tedisco “fantastic,” remembering how he reached out immediately after her daughter’s disappearance and offered space in his office for the first Center for Hope meetings.
Lyall said her daughter Suzanne had a real knack for solving technology problems, adding that she chose to study computer science at SUNY Albany and most likely would be, in modern parlance, “a computer geek by now.”
For anyone who may have information about her daughter’s 1998 disappearance, Lyall said, “I really want you to tell what kind of information you’ve got.”
Aside from inspiring the passage of both state and federal legislation, the Lyalls conceived of putting the pictures of missing persons on playing cards distributed in state prisons and on drink coasters at local restaurants and taverns, hoping it will generate tips that could solve cold cases.
The “Coasters for Hope” program alone has distributed 75,000 drink coasters.
Tedisco is currently working with Lyall and the Center for Hope to advocate for a new State Police unit dedicated to investigating cold cases and missing person cases.
For more information, visit the website www.hope4themissing.org/news.php.
Larry Goodwin contributed to this report.