Marcia Adelaide Byrne Mathews passed away unexpectedly at her home on Friday, January 12th, 2024. Even though she was 82 years young when she passed away, the word unexpectedly is still used because she was so full of life. Marcia was someone who was larger than life, and it seemed an impossible notion that she would never not be here.
Marcia was born June 1st, 1941 to Harold and Evelyn Adelaide (nee Congdon) Byrne in Richmond Hill, NY. She would become the oldest of five children, a position she would come to relish, as she always enjoyed being in charge. When tragedy struck and she lost both of her parents in a matter of six weeks, she officially became the matriarch of the family. This was a position she held until she passed away.
She attended Garden City High School on Long Island, NY and graduated in 1959. The first sentence to describe Marcia in her high school yearbook was “Fun to Know.” For the next 65 years, everyone that met her could attest to how much that sentence rang true. Though she would attend college at Barry University in Miami, Florida, and eventually make Florida her permanent residence, she never lost touch with her Garden City friends, and was always very proud to say she grew up on Long Island and that she was a New Yorker (even if she preferred the Florida weather).
After graduating from Barry University in 1963 with a degree in English, (or at least everyone assumed she did from how often she would correct people’s grammar) she stayed in Florida and soon began teaching full time. She started her career at High Point Elementary in Tampa and was there for the devastating tornado that tore the school down and killed two children. She bravely stayed in her classroom with her students and kept them safe that day. The majority of her teaching career, though, was spent at Skycrest Elementary in Clearwater. It was there that she was happiest. She loved her students and her students loved her. She was always going above and beyond for them. Such stories of her impact include her driving children home when parents were absent, making dinners for students who were hungry, taking students to her beloved Tampa Bay Bucs practices, growing butterflies in her classroom and reading the Harry Potter books herself so she could talk about them with her kids. She selflessly gave them experiences they would never forget.
To summarize her adventurous life and all of her accomplishments is an impossible feat. But we will try to defy the odds like Marcia always did, and do our best.
– She traveled to every continent in the world except Antarctica. Two of her favorite locations were the Croatian Beaches, and the glaciers, polar bears and wolves of Alaska.
– She had a deep love of horses. She was still waiting to see a Triple Crown winner in person and attended several Belmont Stakes in the hopes of catching one. One of her favorite things she ever did was riding an Arabian horse around the Pyramids in Egypt.
– Obtained a pilot’s license and was very proud to casually fly planes in her free time.
– Owned and operated a coastal marina.
– Registered one of the first Butterfly Sanctuaries in Florida in her own backyard.
– Swam with the smallest species of whale in Mexico, and snorkeled annually with the manatees in Crystal River.
– Was an active member of the Red Hat Ladies, and was the President of the Garden Committee at her local community club.
– Won the “Teacher of the Year” Award for her respective county in Florida.
– Worked in countless elections offices, and was a deep believer in the political system and that every person could make a difference.
– Bred champion Yorkshire Terriers and frequently traveled to dog shows across the nation. Her goal was to make it to the Westminster Dog Show.
– Researched her own family tree and took delight in telling the family our history. She arranged a trip with her siblings to the family’s vacation home in Troy, NY.
– At one point decided she was going to be an astronaut, and attended Space Camp at NASA in Houston. She was so sure of her new career path, that she even applied to be an astronaut for the space shuttle Challenger. With luck on her side, she was not selected for that space launch.
– Named all of her pets after famous figures including Houdini, Shakespeare and Dickens.
– Worked tirelessly as an animal rights activist, and worked with and documented endangered seals and just last year rescued Arabian Horses from a kill pen.
– Was an avid golfer and lived comfortably on the 9th hole of the Heritage Springs Golf Course, and enjoyed many adventures off-roading with her golf cart and wine.
– Mastered the art of calligraphy, and delighted her family with beautiful cards for all occasions for decades.
She is survived by all of her students. All of the kids she taught right and wrong to. All of the students she listened to when no one else would. All of the students she believed in. All of the students who followed in her footsteps and became teachers themselves. Those students are her legacy and what she was most proud of.
She was predeceased by her two brothers, Ralph Byrne and Paul (Diane) Byrne, and her beloved sister/travel companion/best friend, Natalie Byrne Brown. In addition to the countless students she impacted, she is survived by her dear sister Janice (Harold) Miller, Sister-in-Law Diane, Brother-in-Law Harold and her six cherished nieces and nephews, Timothy (Jessica) Brown, Kevin (Elizabeth) Brown, Erin Brown, Meghan Brown, Alex Byrne and Emily Miller. She is also survived by her two Great Grand Nieces Isla and Sadie Brown.
Following Marcia’s orders, we will be throwing a giant celebration of her most extraordinary life, with details to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to the Save Our Monarchs Foundation (https://www.saveourmonarchs.org/) and for everyone to raise a glass in her honor.