Letter: Remember all that Mike Byrnes showed us

Posted 1/19/23

To the editor:Many of us know Bristol won’t be the same without Mike Byrnes around. The extensive turnout at his St Mary’s Church service was an impressive display of his broad reach. He …

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Letter: Remember all that Mike Byrnes showed us


To the editor:

Many of us know Bristol won’t be the same without Mike Byrnes around. The extensive turnout at his St Mary’s Church service was an impressive display of his broad reach. He touched so many of us in every part of town that we have yet to fathom the impact of his work.

In his eulogy, Mike’s Vietnam War companion Charles Brown urged the gathering to smile when they remembered Mike, adding, “What a ride!” With local anecdotes including Mike waiting tables at Tweet’s, Mr. Brown invoked Mike’s military and business career, sending him off on “his final patrol.”

It should be noted that included in the church service program was the Rudyard Kipling poem “If,” a literary reflection of the clarity, inclusiveness and courage that Mike made such a large part of his life. I recommend reading it.

While a uniformed military and first responder presence was evident at the service – including full honors at North Burial Ground – most local memories about Mike come back to his civic involvement, working to build and preserve the local institutions he saw as vital as our global ones.

Admittedly, Mike held dear his conservative views, but just as dear was his eagerness for civil discourse on critical issues, avoiding the “ad hominem” and embracing the “fair and balanced.” His efforts to bring this discourse to the town was realized on numerous boards and commissions, including a formidable run for Town Council and the impetus to organize Bristol County Concerned Citizens.

With his own disarming form of diplomacy – learned certainly at home as well as at the highest levels in China – Mike enjoyed the friendly debate, as noted in this column last week by Stephan Brigidi, who acknowledged he differed with Mike on the issues but that they shared a “deep respect” for each other.

Bristol should also know that Rhode Island State Rep. Susan Donovan introduced a Jan. 11 House Resolution expressing condolences on Michael’s passing and noting the extent of his global, national and civic achievements.

As Ms. Donovan said to me this week, “No matter all our differences, I always loved Michael and what he contributed to country and our home town. He was taken much too soon … he had so much more to give us.’
It should also be noted that Mike’s service was held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Among my readings I came across these words by black journalist Monica Harris, summarizing a message from Dr King:

“Sitting together means appreciating our unique differences while embracing what we have in common and celebrating our shared humanity. We’re stronger together when we transcend our differences.”

In remembering the contributions Mike made to country and community, keep this in mind as we listen closely to each other and seek out common ground.

DeWolf Fulton
Monkeywrench Lane

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.