Norma Lyon, Iowa's 'butter cow lady,' dies at 81

TOLEDO, Iowa

Known to most people as the "butter cow lady," Lyon's first sculpture of a 600-pound cow was produced in 1959 at the Iowa State Fair. She continued to sculpt a butter cow every year until her retirement in 2006.

"She was very patient and kind," said Sarah Pratt, who took over as "the new butter lady" in 2007 after apprenticing under Lyon starting when she was 14 years old. "She loved to tell stories, and she'd laugh and we'd laugh together. She was at her best, I think, when she was sculpting."

The rural Toledo housewife also sculpted notable images such as Elvis, Garth Brooks, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and Smokey Bear. Her most famed piece is arguably her sculpture of the biblical story of the Last Supper in 1999, featuring Jesus and his disciples.

Lyon also garnered attention in 2007, when she publicly backed /*Barack Obama*/ for president and appeared in campaign ads for him.

Lyon suffered a stroke at her rural home Sunday and died shortly after at a hospital, said daughter Michelle Juhl on Monday.

Lyon is survived by her husband, G. Joe Lyon, her nine children, 23 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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