It was with tremendous sadness that I received news on Monday of the passing of RN (Bob) Byrne.
Bob Byrne holds a very special place in our community, and in the hearts of everyone who knew him well. He recently recorded his memoirs, which tell a fascinating and compelling story of a self-made man, who through his personal circumstances, had no option but to ‘stand on his own feet’ from his very early teens. That he rose to be such a successful businessman is nothing less than extraordinary and speaks to the determination, commitment, intelligence and empathy for others that he brought to every aspect of his life.
Bob’s contribution to the civic life of the community began as a Councillor on the former Whakatāne Borough Council from 1971 till 1976, including three years as Deputy Mayor. He then served as an elected member of the District Council from 1976 until 1983 (the latter three years as Deputy Mayor). In 1986, he was elected Mayor, serving until 1989. He is remembered by many for his outstanding leadership following the devastating Edgecumbe earthquake of 1987, for which he was awarded an MBE, and for his outstanding service to many local clubs and organisations. Not so well-known was Bob’s quiet philanthropy, as a supporter of any number of worthy community initiatives, organisations and individuals over the years.
As a former civic leader, Bob was an elder statesman for our organisation and it was particularly fitting that we were able to recently recognise his contributions to the District through the naming of the Bob Byrne Reserve, at Port Ōhope.
I count myself extremely fortunate to have known Bob as a friend and mentor and I know that many others in the community will feel the same. This week, in honour of Bob’s passing, the flags at the Civic Centre will fly at half-mast, in memory of a great man with a great heart, who did great things for our community.
On behalf of Council elected members and staff, I offer our sincere condolences to Bob’s family and many friends. He will be greatly missed.