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Gladys Byrne, 97, a longtime Richland resident, died Dec. 31, 2001, at Elkhorn Village.
Her funeral was at 11 a.m. today at Elkhorn Village with the Rev. Roger Scovil officiating and at 2 p.m. at the Richland Christian Church with the Rev. Gordon Bond of the Richland Christian Church officiating.
Vault interment was at Eagle Valley Cemetery in Richland.
Gladys Byrne was born on Oct. 13, 1904, (“Friday the 13th, our lucky day,” her family recalls), at Halfway to John Fredrick Garrett and Keturah Mary Coles Garrett. She was the fifth of eight children.
She often told how she was born in a smokehouse her father built for the Crow family, who then gave her the nickname of Little Smokey.
She married Ralph Byrne on March 5, 1921, at New Bridge. Ralph’s first job as a married man was in Durkee. He used a team of horses to build old Highway 30.
After this job he used his team to help work on the streets of Baker City. From there they were involved in farming in Eagle Valley and at Sparta. They purchased the Pearl Wright place on lower Powder River in 1934 where they lived until 1950 when they purchased the Bunch place. They retired from the farm and moved to Richland in 1964.
They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on March 5, 1971, at New Bridge in nearly the same spot where they were married. Her children recall that after the celebration, Bob and Roberta took Gladys to get her 1961 Rambler she had secretly purchased and she got her first driving lesson that day from Bob while the rest of the kids stayed in the house and worried. She was 66 years old at the time.
Our dad said he was not riding in that car! they said, but he did. Gladys and Ralph were married for 58 years when Ralph died in 1979. Gladys continued to live in Richland until 1994 when she moved into her apartment at Elkhorn Village where she lived until her death.
Her family fondly remembers what a wonderful cook she was; she canned fruit, meat and vegetables and Myrtle remembers she canned more than 1,000 quarts of food one year. Her cinnamon rolls were the best in the world and her children remember how they could trade the school kids out of anything if they had a cinnamon roll to offer.
Her children also loved her baking powder biscuits, homemade cottage cheese with radishes, new peas and potatoes, homemade bread and canned peaches. “If we had company, the chickens had better watch out, because they were dinner,” her family said.
Their mother was always part kid herself, according to her family. She loved a good joke and water fights. She’d even bring the water hose into the house to get even with us. Bob accidentally locked her in the chicken house once and boy, was she mad when she got out. Mom loved her garden, her old milk cows, making quilts and making new friends.
The Byrnes home was open to any child any time. The couple was known for standing up for children who had no one to stand up for them. They always had a bed, food and love for other kids.
Gladys’ family recalled, Mom never knew who Dad would invite in off the highway to eat with us. One time a man knocked at the door and asked for food and they obliged him. When he left they found a silver dollar under his plate; this was at a time when a dollar really meant something.
“We were poor in cash, but rich with love, family and plenty of food they raised on our place,” their family said. “There were hard times, but we all agree we’d go back in a heartbeat given the chance!”
She was preceded in death by her parents; a daughter, Freda, in 1940; her husband in 1979; and four sisters and three brothers.
Survivors include four daughters, Myrtle Whittaker of Robertson, Wyo., Ada Patton of Irrigon, Betty Myers and Carl, of Baker City and Bonnie Dunn and Delaine, of La Grande; three sons, Joe Byrne and Marion, of Kennewick, Wash., Bob Byrne and Joye of Baker City; 28 grandchildren, 49 great-grandchildren and 18 great-great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the Eagle Valley Ambulance or Pathway Hospice through Gray’s West & Co., P.O. Box 726, Baker City, OR 97814.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, January 4, 2002
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor