May God Bless You Jerry Byrd
By now you have probably heard about the passing of long-time Bossier Press-Tribune sports editor Jerry Byrd. As with someone of his caliber, it is no surprise that many have “Jerry stories” to share. I am no different. My Jerry story isn’t about his prolific writing or his comical personality. It isn’t about his volunteerism or his love for the youth of Shreveport-Bossier. My story is about a much-older and wiser Jerry Byrd.
Jerry had been working at the Bossier Press-Tribune for several years without missing a day – unless it was his annual vacation. Little did any of us know that during that time he had beaten cancer on more than on occasion. Jerry wasn’t much on sharing his personal struggles with the rest of us.
Then one day I received a telephone call. “David. I may not be able to get the sports pages done tomorrow. I am in the hospital.” “What happened?” “I’m old and I need heart surgery.” This was the first I had heard of any related ailment, but was not surprised Jerry kept it from us. He truly was of the old school mindset that work was work and home was home, and never the twain shall meet.
We filled in while Jerry had his surgery, during which time he called coaches from the hospital and lined out things to make sure his sports pages were produced to his liking. His second wife, Barbara, perhaps one the of sweetest ladies I’ve ever met, took amazing care of Jerry. “When they (the doctors) put me under, I knew I would wake up to my wife. I just didn’t know which one,” Jerry said.
He did wake up to Barbara – and from that day forward, Jerry made spending time with her a high priority. Sure, he continued to do award-winning work for the paper, but he also made sure to take trips and spend time with Barbara.
When we suggested he retire from full-time sports editing and become more of a columnist, Jerry said, “Great. That gives us more time to travel.”
Like many of you, I will remember Jerry Byrd the sportswriter, the comedian, the impromptu singer. But I will also remember him as a man who deeply loved his wife, his kids and grandkids. After all, is that the most important memory of all?
May God Bless you, Jerry Byrd. You will be missed.
David A. Specht, Jr. is President & CEO of SNI Media. He is also 2016 Board Chairman of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org