CLEGHORN - Robert Byers was a good man. He was a soft spoken, polite and caring individual. He was a strong advocate for his community and the school districts he was associated with. If the world was populated with many folks just like Byers, what a great place this would be.
Byers, a dedicated community activist for the Cleghorn area and surrounding towns, died last week at the age of 66.
Over the years this reporter received many calls from Byers to make sure folks that assisted him with his many projects would receive proper thanks. He always turned the spotlight away from himself.
Thanks to Byers, Cleghorn, a small community, can now boast of an arboretum filled with nearly 50 different Iowa native trees which are neatly planted northwest of the Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Middle School.
Adjacent to this is a nine-hole miniature golf course, each hole unique, donated by a business in the MMC School District. There is a cement pad with table and benches with access to a cold drink. All created for families to enjoy while learning.
Byers also was the educator who saw a need for an improved technology room and led that effort by going around to many area businesses explaining the program and the Technical Student Association organization which would ensure higher level learning for students at MMC. Bob Ruby was the classroom instructor and gave it his all by following in Byer's footsteps. Again, Byers was a salesman for the project and enlisted others to help. As a result, MMC students came away with many top awards from the state TSA competition.
Byers served as a classroom teacher, elementary and middle school principal, coach and guidance counselor. He spent hours of his own time planning and executing programs for his students. He had a sign made for the school and sought money from local folks to purchase flowers for the students to plant around the building and grounds.
After serving 25 years between the three communities of MMC, Byers retired in 2000. But the classroom called. He worked part-time helping out the Spalding Catholic School at Granville. Once again, he volunteered to help out as needed.
Byers became active in "Keep Iowa Beautiful" program and encouraged the MMC District and communities to be aware of what they could do to better their towns. Less litter is seen than before with this initiative.
Byers was active in the local Lions Club and pushed forth an entertainment night for families while benefiting students. The "Chili Cook-Off", held in late October, has been around for three years now providing kids of all ages a great time. Once again, he busied himself getting volunteers to participate by entering the contest and providing entertainment.
Byers' latest project was finding a place that Cleghorn residents (and anyone living nearby) could eat breakfast. With the eateries all closed down, Cleghorn folks had no place to go for breakfast and to chat with friends. He thought (as many others have) that the local shelter house could be improved upon. Thus he started preparing breakfasts for folks, with them throwing in a good-will donation as they pleased. He was able to receive donations of food and enlisted others to pitch in to help. Jim Thompson, Fran Briggs and Jeanette Hohbach have helped by cooking, making coffee or cleaning the place up. One can have eggs, pancakes, bacon or sausage or whatever is in the pantry. In a little over a year, around $14,800 has been raised to do some remodeling of the shelter house.
As Francis Smith commented, "Bob was an instigator to get things done here. He saw what needed doing and did it."
Ron Wetherell said, "I don't know who is going to step up and do all that Bob did. He was a good friend and he's going to be missed."
Byers ran for state representative four years ago. He had a desire to serve folks in Des Moines. Many thought he would have served us well and were disappointed that more folks in a larger area didn't know him as Cleghorn did.
He was honest and true to his principles, always wanting to make things better for others and above all, provide a worthy education to kids. He was instrumental in enlarging the number of scholarships handed out to MMC students. It would be impossible to guess how many lives he has changed by just being "Bob".
He was a community person and collected memorabilia from the community and area. It was a delight to let him share the stories surrounding his collection and how he came about having ownership of them. He was proud to call Cleghorn home.
As many folks are saying, "They just don't make many like Bob."