Obituaries

Bruce Kirk Byers, 90, of Cornwall

BRUCE KIRK BYERS

CORNWALL — Bruce Kirk Byers, 90, of Cornwall, Vt., passed away peacefully, surrounded by family and his dog, Maple, on May 9, 2024.

Born in New York City on Oct. 3, 1933, to John R.B. Byers and Marjorie Newman Byers, Bruce grew up in Rutherford, N.J., with summers spent in Green Pond, N.J. He graduated from Blair Academy (1951), Middlebury College (1955) and Cornell Law School (1958). He was in the Army Reserve from 1958-1964.

At Middlebury College Bruce met the love of his life, Suzanne Heyer, to whom he was married for 67 years. A stellar college athlete, he played basketball, baseball, and soccer, helping a classmate who in 1954 organized the first Middlebury soccer team, which won every game that season. He excelled in his studies at college and law school, and was active in a variety of clubs and committees. Bruce loved his time at Middlebury College, so much so that he and Sue retired to nearby Cornwall in 2000.

In 1962 Bruce started his own law firm in Ridgewood, NJ. He and Sue very quickly, as with everything in their lives, got involved with all things Ridgewood. Bruce was deeply committed to public service. He was attorney for the Planning Board, a town councilman, and mayor. He always said his favorite role as mayor was performing marriage ceremonies. His generosity extended to pro bono legal work for numerous organizations. He was board chair of Holley Child Care Center and spearheaded a large senior citizen housing project and town park restoration. This dedication to community continued after Bruce and Sue moved full-time to Cornwall after being weekenders since 1986. As described by Middlebury College President Laurie Patton, in presenting him with the John and Bonnie McCardell Citizen’s Award in 2016, the Middlebury community is “privileged to have Bruce’s selflessness and zest for life in our midst.” Over the years, beneficiaries of this zest were Porter Hospital, Charter House, Open Door Clinic, Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, Middlebury Dog Park, Cornwall Planning Board, and HOPE. One of his passions was the Town Hall Theater restoration. He served on the board, helped raise funds, and provided pro bono legal work for anything needed to bring this historic town jewel back to life.

Gratitude to his alma mater was reflected over the years in his serving on the Alumni Board, as alumni interviewer for hopeful applicants and as class agent, as well as co-chair with Sue of several reunions. At his 50th reunion he was the Alumni Association recipient of the award for Outstanding Service to the College. An annual highlight for the past 20 years was Alumni College at the Bread Loaf campus, with a cohort of dear classmates from near and far.

Bruce was good at checking things off his bucket list, including getting his Town Hall Theater bartending license in his 70s, diving into woodworking and pottery classes, hosting legendary Kentucky Derby parties to benefit Porter Hospital, pitching for the Natural Foods Coop’s co-ed softball team, driving a succession of convertibles, and hosting Middlebury College international students (who have become “family”). He loved his sports, especially any one involving competition and a ball: tennis, golf, softball, paddle tennis. His paddle court was open to all.

He had a knack for making people feel comfortable. He will be remembered for his unbridled laughter, energy, generous spirit and friendship, his love of maple creemees and chocolate, and springer spaniels. He never lost his inner child, sharing his sense of fun with his children and later his grandchildren, such as treating them to one-on-one summer outings to a game arcade, mini golf, go-cart tracks, with always a grand finale at an ice cream and candy shop.

Bruce leaves a legacy of kindness, community service, and a love of life. He is survived by his wife, Sue; daughter, Anne Lockwood (Michael); son, Christopher Byers (Stephanie); grandchildren, Chris Lockwood (Caroline), Kyle Lockwood (Michelle), Cara Lockwood Rohrer (Jeff), Keely Lockwood, and Natalie Byers. He was so loved by his extended family and many dear friends. He will be deeply missed.

A celebration of Bruce’s life will be held at American Flatbread, 137 Maple Street, Middlebury, Vt., on June 1, from 4-7 p.m. All are welcome.

Contributions in Bruce’s name may be made to Charter House Coalition or Town Hall Theater, both in Middlebury. ◊

 

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