Letter: A tribute to Brigadier General Michael Byrnes

Posted 1/19/23

To the editor:Bristol lost one of its best last week with the death of Michael T. Byrnes. After graduating from Colt High School and Providence College, where he was in ROTC, Mike joined the Army, …

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Letter: A tribute to Brigadier General Michael Byrnes

Posted

To the editor:

Bristol lost one of its best last week with the death of Michael T. Byrnes.

After graduating from Colt High School and Providence College, where he was in ROTC, Mike joined the Army, where he served in a variety of assignments, including Germany, China, Vietnam and Texas, while also getting a master’s degree in International Relations and studying Mandarin Chinese at the British Ministry of Defense Chinese Language School in Hong Kong and at Beijing University. Among his military awards was the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Army Commendation Medal, the Defense Superior ServiceMedal. He ultimately retired as a Brigadier General and was later inducted into the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Attaché Hall of Fame.

You may remember Mike’s father, former State Rep. Tom Byrnes, who was most instrumental in getting the East Bay Bike Path approved by the Legislature in 1980, ironically, against stiff opposition from abutters, the Squantum Club and some town governments.

After leaving the Army, Mike worked as a senior executive for Rockwell International in China and then for Tyco International in China for more than 20 years and then ran an importing business based in Bristol, The Olde China Trader.

But, as important as those positions were, it was what he contributed to Bristol that is most important to our community.

He was a wise observer and pithy commentator on what is good and bad about Bristol. He founded or served on a number of important community boards, including Explore Bristol, the Kickemuit Education Foundation, The British Motorcar Festival, Bristol Economic Development Commission, Citizens for Mount Hope Farm, Linden Place, the Town’s Comprehensive Plan Update, and so many others.

What did he bring to all of these community organizations? I think it’s something we can all learn from:

  • A diplomatic but totally unvarnished patriotic, free economy, democratic (small d) and capitalistic view of how the U.S., the State and the Town should operate;
  • A belief in traditional values, including his faith, the value of a good public school education, the importance of family and the need to think independently;
  • He was not afraid to speak truth to power, but managed to express himself clearly, but without any rancor or personal attacks — civility was his approach;

  • And a passion for the importance of education — he was particularly troubled by the poor science and math scores of our public schools, as he believed those skills were so important for students to understand and master.



In thinking about the enormous contributions Mike made to our country and to Bristol, I am surprised he was never honored as the chief marshal of the Bristol Fourth of July parade, as he was among our most patriotic citizens. He would have so treasured that honor. 
Please do remember Mike and his family in your thoughts and prayers — how lucky Bristol was to have him as one of our most active community members!

Georgina Macdonald
180 Ferry Road

2023 by East Bay Media Group

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