Alois Jean (Derry) Byers died on February 1, 2019 in Plano, TX surrounded by her family after a brief illness. Born on July 20, 1917 in a hospital in Louisville, KY, Alois Byers is survived by three daughters Sue Wilson of Richardson, TX, Deborah Charlton (Michael) of Chevy Chase, MD, and Sandy Edwards (Carl) of Katy, TX and son-in-law Barry Baker of Loudon, TN.
Alois had nine grandchildren: Sue Charlton of Kensington, MD, Dan (Mikel) Charlton of Skokie, IL, Rob (Lynsey) Wilson of Lantana, TX, Lella Baker of Marlborough, MA, Sarah (Baker) (Don) McDowell of Okemah, OK, Christy (Wilson) (Chuck) LaStrapes of Gonzales, LA, Madison (Edwards) (Hector) Morales, Houston, TX, Nathan (Evie) Baker, Harrison, TN, David (Hannah) Edwards, San Antonio, TX.
Alois had 15 great-grandchildren: Katie & Gracie Cabral, Jonathan & Grayson Charlton, Rylan & Harlow Wilson, Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily & Lauren McDowell, Maya, Elise & Sawyer LaStrapes, Evan Nogales Baker.
She was preceded in death by her eldest daughter, Becky Baker, her husband, Walter Byers, her special friend, Jim McCathren, and her mother, Mae Derry.
She was married to her high school sweetheart, Walter Byers, in 1938. She and Walter were married for 54 years before his death in 1993. On their anniversary, Walter gave her a red rose for every year of marriage. Every year, without fail, Alois would say “Walter, you shouldn’t have.” After graduating from high school, Alois borrowed fifty dollars to attend business school where she trained as a secretary and subsequently worked at the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
Walter and Alois moved multiple times during their marriage: Ft. Wayne, IN, Kendallville, IN, St. Joseph, MI, Toledo, OH, Worthington, OH, Richmond, VA, and Atlanta, GA to name a few. During an interview that her grandson Rob conducted on her 100th birthday, Alois recounted living in the south during the Civil Rights Movement. A life-long Democrat, Alois recounted meeting Jimmy Carter and volunteering for Sen. John Glenn. In retirement, Alois was an active volunteer for over 25 years at North Florida Regional Hospital, a member of the Gainesville Garden Club and an election day poll worker.
Retiring to Gainesville, Florida in 1983, Alois and Walter became active members of the First United Methodist Church of Gainesville. Life-long gardeners, Walter would give Alois a rose from his garden almost every day. Alois “puttered” about her gardens growing various flowers and vegetables. Alois would drive her family crazy while playing cards as she would debate which card to play which often resulted in the exasperated utterance of Walter stating, “It’s a fast game, Alois” to which she would respond “Oh, Walter.” Much to the dismay of her grandchildren, Alois would often win after Walter would allow portions of the game to be replayed upon Alois discovering a card she did not know she held. She was very lucky in both cards & love!
After Walter’s death, Alois remained in Gainesville for many years. Alois became an avid Gators fan when she began dating Jim McCathren, a long-time coach in the basketball program at the University of Florida, when she was 80 and he was 86. To the chagrin of many of her grandchildren, this was during the era when UF football was quite competitive and Alois would make sure that her grandchildren knew the scores on winning Saturdays and she knew all the players and their positions!
Jim died in 2012 at the age of 101. Alois moved to Plano, TX in 2012 to be closer to her family. She was able to spend time with her grandchildren Rob, Sarah, and David who live in the area. Shortly before her 100th birthday, she danced with her eldest great-grandchild, Donald McDowell at his wedding reception in Oklahoma after McDowell’s marriage to Jasmine Justus.
She was truly a member of the greatest generation. Alois’ love of bargain hunting, her humor, her abiding Christian faith, her lifelong learning and spirit of volunteerism live on in her daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Always the life of the party, she will be deeply missed by those who were fortunate enough to know and love her.
Memorials may be made in her name to: First United Methodist Church of Gainesville, 419 NE 1st Street, Gainesville, FL 32601.