Jack Ray Byrd

Published 10:30 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Jack Ray Byrd, 87, a Nansemond County native who lived out of state for many years but returned home in the early 1980s, died April 17, 2018, at age 87 from complications associated with pneumonia.

Byrd graduated from Chuckatuck High School, attended Elon College, served in the U.S. military and then graduated from Benjamin Franklin School of Accountancy in Washington, D.C. He began his professional career with Thomas J. Lipton in the early 1950s working in accounting at the Suffolk plant; he was subsequently promoted into a management program at the company’s corporate headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. In the 1970s, he assumed financial management responsibilities for a plant in Missouri. In the early 1980s. he returned to Suffolk as head of accounting. He retired at 66.

In 1962, he married Peggy Brown, of Sunbury, N.C. A former Miss North Carolina (Miss Universe, 1959), Peggy Brown Byrd later launched a successful real estate career.


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Throughout his life, Mr. Byrd, who hailed from a musical family, was actively interested in music as both a performer and fan. He was a skilled guitarist who performed in night clubs locally and regionally from the 1940s to the 1960s. He also later sang in the choir at Oakland Christian Church. Accompanied by such musical luminaries as Tommy Newsom and brothers Charlie and Joe Byrd, he performed annually at fundraisers held at the Planters Club and other venues.

As a couple, Jack and Peggy Byrd were active in their church and community and gave their time generously to friends and family. Peggy died of lung cancer in 2009. In subsequent years, Jack was diagnosed with dementia but continued to reside at his home in Suffolk with help from friends, family, close neighbors and members of his church. Despite some health challenges, Byrd continued to play guitar until recently and was always alert when others were playing or singing. He was also an avid fisherman and gardener.

To the end, Byrd remained characteristically cheerful and upbeat — always finding a smile for visiting friends and relatives, unfailingly loving and generous.

He is survived by nephews John W. Byrd, David N. Byrd, Jeff House and J. Michael Hobbs, and by nieces Barbara H. Thomas, Mary Jo Byrd Labayog, Carol Byrd Rose, Charlotte Byrd-Baypai; Beverly H. Windley, Constance H. Sanders, Linda H. Algood, Karen H. Leigh and Margaret Klages.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 29, 2018, at Oakland Christian Church followed by a reception. Flower donations are welcome. Online condolences can be registered online at RWBakerFH.com.