BYRNE, Thomas, Agusta ("Tom")
With heavy hearts, the family of the talented, remarkable Tom Byrne, is sad to announce he left this world in the wee hours of November 19th, 2019 at the age of 95. His large, close-knit family will cherish memories of his Irish humour, stories, songs, enthusiasm for science and politics and an unstoppable positive outlook on life. An open Catholic Mass will be dedicated in Tom’s honor at his parish in Gibsons, BC on December 1, 2019. A funeral will be held on January 3, 2019, 2:30pm at St. Mary’s church in Gibson’s, 956 Gibson’s Way. A reception in the church hall will follow in celebration of Tom’s life.
Tom was born January 10, 1924 in Dublin Ireland. At the age of seventeen he left his large Irish family and traveled on his own to London, England. World War II was on and he could not join the fight due to his asthma but found work with the railway. In his spare time he was able to study theatre arts which was a passion that endured throughout his entire life.
While in London, Tom met a beautiful and talented young woman who was involved in the theatre, singing and dance as well. They fell in love and later in 1956, Tom, Betty and their three little girls, Carmel, Christine and Kim boarded the SS New York and sailed from London to Halifax, Canada in search of big dreams. They eventually made their way West to settle in Vancouver, BC where their fourth daughter, Brenda was born a few years later.
Tom became immersed in the local Irish community and with his theatrical background and performing talents helped establish an award winning, amateur drama company, “The Emerald Players”. The group performed Irish classics at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and The Playhouse in Vancouver as well as drama festivals around BC. The years were lively with fun, Irish culture, parties, plays, rehearsals and music. As a lifelong member of the unions, ACTRA and EQUITY Tom also played parts in local films and television. He also produced the first Vancouver St. Patrick’s Day Parade which ran for many years.
Tom had always had a special love of stories about the Wild West. He was particularly enamoured with the works of the famous poet, Robert Service and knew many poems by heart. In 1979 Tom was commissioned by Parks Canada to recite the poetry of Robert Service at his historic 1898 cabin in Dawson City, Yukon. With the blessing of Robert Service’s family he got to work to create an incredibly successful and internationally renowned attraction, “The Robert Service Show”, portraying the ghost of Robert Service. The one-man-show ran for more than 30 years and he expertly brought the poetry to life for thousands of Yukon tourists from around the globe every summer. His show was a featured attraction in the Yukon Pavillion at Expo ’86 in Vancouver, BC. Tom was welcomed into the Yukon Order of Pioneers for his years of service in the Yukon and was also featured in the book, “The Canadians” which highlighted the lives of memorable Canadians.
Tom loved his years in the north but eventually retired to his winter home, Tir na Noig (“Gaelic meaning land of eternal youth”) in Roberts Creek, BC. During his retirement he enjoyed spending time with his large family, working on his property, and fulfilled another lifelong dream, finishing his autobiography depicting his life in Ireland during the 20s and 30s. The first printed draft of the book was put into his hands just days before he left us and his face was glowing with pride.
Tom was one of a kind and we will miss him tremendously. His voice with its rich Dublin accent, songs, stories and sense of humour will be with us always.
Lovingly remembered by his daughters, Carmel (Mark), Christine, Kim (Mark), and Brenda (Greg), his grandchildren, Vaughan, Malea (Matt), Jordan (Elena), Brandon (Daniela), Emily (Chenoa), and Teagan (Chenille) and his great grandchildren, Mercedes, Makaila, Dignan, Nev, Skyler, Everly, McKinley, Aliya, and Easton.
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
And may you be half an hour in heaven
Before the Devil knows you’re dead
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