Obituary of Tom Byerley
On March 21, surrounded by loved ones, Tom took his last breath; he died having lived according to his values: family, fellowship, community, and country.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, during the aftermath of the Great Depression, Tom’s formative years were spent in London, Ontario. It was war-time — a time of scarcity and rationing — when young and old rallied to do their civic duty. His parents, Stanley, and Letitia (Napolitano) passed on their core beliefs in integrity, self-discipline, service, and Catholic faith along with a deep appreciation of education and classical music. Tom was the eldest of three children followed John and Jim. Born within 14 months, Tom and John were like twins. They spent countless hours with friends biking, playing baseball, and, in high school years, running experiments in a basement laboratory.
In 1953, upon graduation from grade 13, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) offered Tom a place in the Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP). So, it was off to Toronto as a flight cadet and freshman enrolled at the University of Toronto in applied science, metallurgy. From among the small cohort of 12 students, Tom formed several lasting friendships. Summers were spent training at the Royal Military College and with the officers’ technical training school at RCAF Station Aylmer. In pursuit of the Profession Engineer designation, Tom was assigned to work with the Technical Service Unit (TSU), which was responsible for inspection of RCAF equipment purchases. In this capacity he was send to the TSU detachment that oversaw the CF-100 Canuck fighter interceptor, which was designed and built in Toronto by A. V. Roe Canada. After graduation in 1957, Tom was a commissioned flying officer, and he remained with his fellow officers and close friends at the AVRO TSU.
In the 1950s, AVRO’s workforce numbered in the thousands. Among them was 19-year-old Maureen Callan, a recent immigrant from Scotland who worked as a typist in the CF-105 Arrow engineering office. Once the AVRO Arrow was cancelled in 1959, Tom was transferred to the RCAF Quality Control Laboratory in Ottawa. After several weeks apart and many long car rides, Tom and Maureen were engaged. Since then Tom’s steadfast love and admiration for Maureen’s beauty and brains spanned more than 64 years of courtship and marriage.
The summer 1960 was eventful. Tom and Maureen were married in Weston, and Tom resigned from the RCAF. Jobs were scarce, so he accepted an offer which brought him back to London, Ontario. Although, the private-sector job with Wolverine Tube was dissatisfying, it led to a position with the Industrial Development Bank (IDB), a Crown Corporation, where Tom’s growing interest in economics flourished. Having returned to Toronto with the IDB job in hand, 1962 was another momentous year for the young couple: Michael was born. In addition to meeting the demands of work and family life, Tom spent Monday nights with the St. Vincent de Paul Society supporting families in Cabbage Town as well as studying business administration at the University of Toronto.
Tom’s next turning point came in 1964 when he accepted a job in the materials division of the newly formed Department of Industry. Leaving his parents, brothers and friends behind, the move to cold and snowy Ottawa was difficult. Thankfully, Tom’s friends who were still with the RCAF eased the transition. And then, early in 1965, Brian (Nina) was born. Thanks to Maureen’s diligence, their new house in Nepean was a haven for the thriving baby and toddler. Around this time Maureen’s sight deteriorated noticeably culminating in her loss of her sight in the 1980s. It was devastating, and it altered their shared life profoundly.
Meanwhile within the growing federal bureaucracy, Tom hopscotched to the Treasury Board Secretariat where he was an analyst within the newly formed Planning Branch. There he forged more friendships and deepened his understanding of economics although internal politics and battles over policy and turf caused some turbulence. During this time, with his characteristic energy, Tom graduated from Carleton University with a B.A. (majoring in economics), continued spending Monday nights with St. Vincent de Paul in Ottawa’s west end, became a founding member of St. John the Apostle Parish in Nepean, and as the weather permitted, played three times per week at Rivermead Golf Club. Still on the home front, Tom and Maureen’s third and last child, Lorraine (Peter), arrived just in time to close out the 1960s. A larger home was now in order, so a year later the family moved a few streets away to a four-bedroom house with a fair-sized lawn and garden.
In the late 70s, Tom defected from Rivermead. With his close friend, he joined Rideau View Golf Club where Tom was a member for more than 40 seasons. He also shook things up professionally. He transferred to the Department of Transport (where he worked until his retirement). Tom’s various roles at Transport along with the Ministerial Task Force on International Air Policy and finally with the Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation introduced him to several other colleagues who became friends. Along the way, a notable experience was a trip to Resolute, Nunavut in the high Arctic for hearings on maritime shipping and the environmental effects of tanker traffic.
After 29 years in public service and seven years with the RCAF, Tom accepted a “golden handshake” in the early 1990s. His colleagues organized a big send off at the RCAF mess at Gloucester Street, the site of many happy occasions. Family life changed too. His children had left home, completed postgraduate programs, and married. In retirement there was more time for other pursuits. In addition to serving on the board of directors of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, his days were often spent on household projects, gardening, golf, and volunteer work with the Conservative Party as well as a new hobby, squash. At 60, he joined the senior squash ladder at Queensview Racquet Club where he made more dear friends. Tom also delighted in a new role: grandpa. Between 1995 and 2009 he welcomed five grandchildren: Ian, Jordan, Nathan, Sonia, and Katrina. Attending recitals, watching competitions, sharing homemade applesauce, and hearing about all their milestones gave him great joy.
In his eighties, Tom began to cut back on heavy jobs, but he remained active. He was always in motion, working out at the gym, running errands, fixing things, cooking without following the recipe, tracking the market, meeting friends, discussing politics, and reading about world affairs. A long-time recreational photographer, his carefully prepared photo albums include volumes 1 through 13. The last entries are from 2017 when three of his grandchildren performed at the Ottawa Music Festival. A heart attack in the fall of 2018 and an arrhythmia in 2019, which were treated successfully, slowed Tom down and ended his travels beyond eastern and southern Ontario. He was satisfied with playing 9-holes and he spent more time with the squash gang off the court. He began using his computer more regularly for email, reading Wikipedia, ordering works of non-fiction from the library, and watching classical concerts online.
Tom’s last chapter was the most poignant. The spring of 2022 started off poorly. Acute pain in his shoulder interfered with golf, driving the car, and sleeping. Late in the summer after a lengthy emergency department visit, Tom learned that he had an end-stage prostate cancer that had spread to the shoulder and other bones. Although everything had changed, Tom was still true to his values. Drawing strength from his family, he chose quality over quantity. He entrusted his care to his family and the medical professionals at the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre. And, having decided to stay at home as long as possible, he welcomed personal care assistants who became stalwart companions. Although his final months had difficult and painful experiences, there were many heartwarming moments, too. Simple things like a chat with a neighbour, a walk at Andrew Haydon Park, a funny video, and a good meal gave him great pleasure. Most of all, Tom loved spending time with his wife and adult children who, in his time of need, devoted themselves to his care.
Now Tom must part ways from his family and friends. So, firm in our belief in his peaceful repose, we will hold our memories of Tom forever in our hearts: cherished husband, loving father, model brother, gracious friend.
A Funeral Service will be held in the Pinecrest Chapel, 2500 Baseline Road on Monday, March 27th at 1:00pm. For those wishing to attend virtually can follow this link at service time. LINK
Instead of flowers, donations to the Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation or the Ottawa Hospital Foundation would be a fitting tribute.
Pinecrest Remembrance Services
2500 Baseline Rd
Ottawa, ON K2C 3H9
Telephone: (613) 829-3600
Fax: (613) 829-8357