James Otto Byrne was born on May 10, 1938, in Highland, Illinois. He was the son of Fern and James Moye Byrne. He is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Sally Swanson Byrne, three daughters and three sons-in-law: Kimberly (Carl) Moeller of Oceanside, California; Kristen (Vaughn) Murphy of Frankfort, Kentucky; and, Kathryn (Ed) Messman of Superior, Colorado; twelve grandchildren: Caroline (Nick) Abramowicz, James (Kylie) Moeller, Claire Moeller, Alexandra Moeller, Lydia (Micah) Williams, Gwenneth (Elijah) Douglas, Paul Murphy, Chloe Murphy, Meredith Murphy, Noah Messman, Alex Messman, and Avery Messman; one great granddaughter Tahlia Douglas; and a younger sister, Kay Jean Mason.
Jim grew up in the small special town of Highland, Illinois. He was so proud to have been raised there. Jim loved playing sports and was voted MVP for basketball, football, and baseball as a high school senior.
A trip to Sardinia, Italy, in 1959, proved to be life-changing. There, he participated in a work camp with 25 students to help Croatian refugees and maintained a lifelong friendship from that experience. Jim credited this trip as the point at which he began a lifetime of caring for other people.
On the first day and first date on campus at the University of Illinois, Jim met the love of his life, Sally Swanson, and they were married in 1960. Jim felt blessed beyond measure with the relationship he had with Sally for 63 years. After graduating with a BA, in 1960, from the University of Illinois, Jim obtained a Master’s Degree in South American history from Loyola University in Chicago. Later, aspiring to be an attorney like his father, he went to law school at night and earned a JD from Western State School of Law, in California. Ultimately, Jim decided that sales was his expertise and he embarked on a successful career with several fine companies.
Jim and Sally raised their family mainly in Fullerton, California, where they lived for 25 years. The family enjoyed traveling domestically and internationally. Jim and Sally were blessed to have many friends throughout the United States and around the world, which he believed helped him and Sally grow as a couple. Due to their middle daughter working in the Grand Teton National Park one summer, Jim and Sally eventually built a home in beautiful Jackson Hole which became their residence and a family getaway for many years.
Jim felt fortunate to have been retired for 23 years. He and his family have always been involved in church, and considered the church to be the foundation of their lives. Jim served on the church leadership in two locations, and was a deacon at the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole where he felt very fortunate to have been involved for the last 20 years. He served the community of Jackson Hole faithfully in several capacities: president of Jackson Hole Therapeutic Riding, a tutor of adults in English as a Second Language, and a docent at the Wildlife Art Museum. Jim was a proud member of the U.S. Air Force and a patriotic American. He felt indebted to those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
Jim’s passion was fishing the rivers of Wyoming and Idaho with his fishing mentor and dear friend, Ross Edwards. We thank God for Jim and the impact he made on so many lives. The love and joy of life that he exuded were contagious. He never met a stranger and blessed all he met with his humble and endearing personality. Jim was a kind and loving soul with an unforgettable smile that will remain etched in our hearts forever. We are comforted knowing he is now resting in the arms of Jesus.
A luncheon will be held at 12:00 p.m. followed by a Celebration of Life service at 1:00 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole, on December 17. It will also be live streamed.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the American Cancer Society.