Retired music professor dies of cancer at 71

by Thomas Douty

Retired music professor Richard Byrne loved life to its fullest and never let the disease that eventually claimed his life douse his spirits.
“He was always known for his wit and sense of humor,” said his brother, Charles Byrne.
Richard Byrne, 71, died of cancer Saturday. He retired from the University in 1994.
After 25 years as a General College music professor, Byrne left in 1991 after developing a hearing problem. A tracheotomy also hindered his voice.
“It pained him greatly not to sing and interpret music,” said Terence Collins, director of General College academic affairs and Byrne’s co-worker for 10 years.
Born in Minneapolis, Byrne received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in music from the University.
The music professor was also active in the Twin Cities community. He served as choir director for many area churches, including 16 years at The Cathedral of St. Paul.
“He was engaged in music in the community, and he brought that love into the classroom,” Collins said.
Byrne also taught at high schools in Bloomington, Minn., and Lake Forest, Ill., before coming to the University.
His wife, Rosemary Byrne, said he was a constant student. Toward the end of his life, he taught himself to paint with watercolors.
“He was just a wonderful person. He had a real following,” she said.
She added Byrne was interested in his students’ and area youths’ welfare. He served as a mentor and aided in counseling.
Byrne worked with KTCA-Ch. 2 to develop educational programs and help with music-appreciation courses.
Byrne is survived by his wife, Rosemary; his daughter, Kathleen Eilen; his son, Patrick; and his brother, Charles.
Funeral services will be held 7 p.m. Thursday at Annunciation Church in Minneapolis. The wake will be from 4 to 8 p.m. at Gill Brothers Funeral Chapel in Minneapolis.

Thomas Douty welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3223.