William G. Byrd Jr.

October 30, 1936 ~ May 31, 2022 (age 85)


William (Bill) Byrd, Jr. passed away peacefully at home at the age of 85, with his loving wife and family by his side. He was their provider, their protector and their hero until his very last breath.

Bill was born in Chicago, Illinois to Gladys Price and William Byrd, Sr. After the loss of his mother at a young age, he was raised with love and devotion by his second mom, Vera Byrd. After graduating high school, he served honorably in the United States Air Force from 1955 - 1959. While in service, he corresponded regularly with the one who became the love of his life, Betty Whitfield.

After a romantic New Year’s Eve proposal on the stroke of midnight, William and Betty were married at Second Baptist Church on June 20, 1959. For the next 63 years, they were inseparable–two hearts beating as one. They raised their children with faith, humor and a strong work ethic. With their love and commitment, they built a family legacy for future generations.

Bill served on the board of Bishop Blanchette Grade School for many years, where he helped with numerous fundraisers to support the school. As a 20+ year member of Shiloh Baptist Church, he could invariably be found offering a helping hand to the annual Back-to-School Fair.

Bill’s deep love of jazz music, especially the iconic Miles Davis and John Coltrane, earned him the moniker The Jazz Man from his fellow commuters on his daily train ride. He and his best friend, the late George “Bags” Morris, were such regulars at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase that their table was permanently reserved. William leaves a  jazz collection that surpasses 10,000 recordings–more than the acclaimed American Jazz Museum in Kansas City.

Bill later pursued a college degree at Lewis University, and earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1978. He retired from an administrative position at IBM in 1991. His early retirement gave him time to do what he loved most: spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He nurtured their love for learning with frequent trips to the library and shared their love for fun with his annual trick-or-treat adventures–adventures that usually included all the children in his neighborhood.

A die-hard Chicago Bears fan, he was a man who loved life, and a man who was loved in return by everyone he touched.

“The man is a success who has lived well, loved much, and laughed often.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Bill was preceded in death by his parents and his brother-of-the-heart, George “Bags” Morris. He leaves many loved ones to celebrate his life, including his devoted wife of 63 years, Betty Byrd; his children, Adrienne (Fred) Harris of Joliet, Michael W. Byrd of Arlington Heights, IL, Debra Byrd of Joliet, Michele Byrd and her fiancé Ryan Norris of Plainfield, IL; his beloved grandchildren, Stacia McElrath, Tawanna McElrath, Darnell (Tamara) Edwards, Jonathan Edwards, Kailyn (Brandon) Adams, and Shannon Bowie; his great-grandchildren, Jordan and Aundrea Edwards, Jalen and Chase Smith, and Jordyn, Karsyn, Ryann and Bryson Adams; his sister, Barbara Byrd-Thomas; nephews, Malcolm Thomas, Marc Thomas and their families; his cousin, Barbara (Penni) Williams; and a multitude of friends, relatives and neighbors who will cherish his memory.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to Compassionate Care Hospice, 200 N. Hammes Avenue, Joliet, IL 60435.


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June 6, 2022

10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Shiloh Baptist Church
18101 Oak Avenue
Lockport, Illinois 60441

Funeral Service
June 6, 2022

12:00 PM
Shiloh Baptist Church
18101 Oak Avenue
Lockport, Illinois 60441

Interment following funeral service
June 6, 2022

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery
20953 W. Hoff Road
Elwood, Illinois 60421

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