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Story Last modified at 9:26 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27, 2010

James "Jim" Richard Byrne


James "Jim" Richard Byrne

James "Jim" Richard Byrne

Aug. 6, 1943- Oct. 21, 2010

James "Jim" Byrne, 67, of Eagle River passed at home in his sleep early Wednesday morning, Oct. 21. Jim's death was the result of a two-year battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). In the two weeks prior to his passing his three brothers from Maine, Oregon and California visited him. Dear friends joined them from near and far. At death Jim was as he always lived: a true follower of his Catholic faith, kind, selfless, generous, faithful, witty, a treasured brother, devoted father and friend.

Jim was born in Oakland, Calif., and attended St. Mary's College of California before joining the Army Special Forces (Green Berets) in 1966. After parachute training at Fort Benning, Ga., and extensive training at Fort Bragg, N.C., Jim deployed to the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam as a medic on an "A" team. After two tours of duty Jim received an Army Commendation Medal, a Bronze Star for valor and two Purple Hearts among other medals and awards. He returned home, went back to college and received his bachelor's degree in business in 1972. He moved from Berkeley, Calif., to Alaska in 1974 where his son Brent was born and raised. Jim began work as a medic on the trans-Alaska oil pipeline construction project and continued to work for Alyeska for almost 30 years, retiring in 2002. He moved to Eagle River in 2008 to be closer to his son and his family.

He is survived by his son Brent Byrne; his daughter-in-law Aubrey; two grandchildren, Akela and Blaze; stepson Jason Szymanski; brothers Tom and his wife, Judy (California), and Kevin (Maine) and Robert Denis (Oregon); as well as loving nephews, niece, cousins, aunts/uncles, devoted lifelong friends Rick Smith (Fairbanks) and David Galindo (California), as well as other very special friends including John (JT) Williams and Loretta Whalin (Oklahoma) who spent the last three months guiding his care. He was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas Paul Byrne and Mary Patricia Byrne.

His best friend Rick Smith had the following words to say: "Jim was not a couch potato type, he loved the outdoors and was always on the go. He had a great sense of humor and could even laugh at his own eccentricities. I can't count the times I heard people say, "he's the nicest guy I ever met." Although Jim was a man's man, he always got a kick out of the fact that we lovingly called him Mother Byrne in our Army unit. He was a good friend to all of us. He'd do anything for you. He was always there, willing to help in any way he could. He was the nicest guy I ever knew. I'll think of Jim and miss him every day that I have left."

A viewing will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Eagle River Funeral Home. This will be followed at 2 p.m. by a mass of Christian burial at St. Andrew Catholic Church, 16300 Domain Lane, Eagle River. A reception will follow the mass. A military funeral with inurnment will be held at a later date at Fort Richardson National Cemetery.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, October 27, 2010.