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Who was Tucson's 'Umbrella Lady'?

Dozens of community members shared stories and memories they had with Lydia Reis.
The Umbrella Lady painting by Pamela Heidinger.
Posted at 4:29 AM, Jan 31, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Dozens of Tucsonans gathered at Tohono Chul Gardens to honor and celebrate the life of Lydia Reis on Monday.

Reis was affectionately known as the ‘Umbrella Lady’ in Tucson. She was struck and killed by a car earlier this month.

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“I’ve never been touched by a community like this. To have everybody come out like this for somebody they might’ve barely known, it just doesn’t happen anymore,” said Tony and Chris, Reis’ brothers.

Tony and Chris live in California and knew their sister chose to live a different kind of life. They said when they first heard the nickname, the Umbrella Lady, they were skeptical and protective over their sister.

They said they quickly learned how loved Reis was by her community and that this was a term of endearment.

“We are thankful for the countless Tucsonans who threw their countless gestures of kindness and tried to make sure that her chosen life was a little bit better,” said the brothers.

“She’s always been into fashion,” said the brothers.

Fashion was a part of Reis’ mystery with many Tucsonans not knowing her name at first.

RELATED: Remembering Lydia Reis - Tucson's Umbrella Lady

Flowers, paintings and umbrellas filled the garden. Many at the service talked about their favorite memories of Reis: from giving her rides or meals to exchanging friendly conversation.

“My wife asked her one time, are you homeless? And she goes, I’m not homeless, God takes care of me,” said Loren Dirks. Dirks said he’s given rides to Lydia and has paid for hotel stays during cold nights.

Multiple Tucsonans shared similar stories with Lydia often asking to pray for the person who was giving her a ride, a place to stay or a bite to eat.

She was known for her mystery, style and kindness. Reis was described to have a quiet confidence, often keeping to herself.

While she touched the lives of many over the last two decades, she continues to inspire them today.

“She inspired me to pick up my brushes and paint, she's inspiring to paint again I haven’t painted for some years because of a family tragedy of my own, but now I’ve already got an idea for a new painting,” said Pamela Heidinger.

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Faith Abercrombie is a reporter for KGUN 9. Before coming to KGUN, Faith worked as a videographer for the Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation and as a reporter and producer on the youth suicide documentary, "Life is..." on Arizona PBS.
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