|By Carmelo Turdo|
Donn Byrnes left us to be with the Lord on Monday, January 23, 2012. The eldest son of Gen. Victor Byrnes, M.D. and Ethel Seebach, he embraced early the joy of learning and understanding how things worked. Fascinated with airplanes and flight, Donn joined the Air Force at 19 and became a pilot. He later graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Electrical Engineering and enjoyed a challenging career as an aeronautical engineer and technical program manager.
Donn found life incredibly interesting and devoured "how to" books on any topic that transformed one thing into another. He taught himself to weld, cast jewelry and machine with a lathe. He designed and fabricated a one man submarine, a boat, water skis, computers, a glider, and a house (with his second wife, Sparks), just to name a few projects. He loved putting together cars, trucks and motorcycles that were terribly fun to drive but not particularly safe. Everything and anything could be (and should be) transformed into something new. Junk yards, pawn shops, a welder and a shop provided the makings for New Things. He also loved photography and developing his own photographs, reloading his own bullets, locksmithing, surveying and repairing anything that was broken.
After retiring, he took a correspondence course in writing. At 68, he published Blackbird Rising - Birth of an Aviation Legend, a book about the SR-71. At 76, he published Air Superiority Blue - The F-15 Story and at 79, his autobiography, A Boy Who Loved Airplanes.
He loved hearing other people's stories, interviewing people on various topics and was at work on a mystery novel. He would have loved Storage Wars and Dirty Money but he didn't have much time for TV. The cancer took him quickly - so quickly he missed his first appointment with the oncologist. He passed away peacefully and pain free surrounded by loved ones. And he would want you to know, he was grateful for you and your friendship. Donn is survived by his wife, Sylvia "Sparks" Byrnes; his sister, Diane Thompson; his four daughters and their spouses, Kathleen and Dan Johns, Kim and Barry Syra, Connie and Mark Knauss and Karen Allen; step-children and their spouses, Phyllis and Claude Tarbell, Peggy and Bob Robey, and Arthur Tennyson; his step-brother, Frank Presson and wife, Jackie; and, of course, everyone who was fortunate enough to know him.