David John Byrne passed away peacefully at his home in Prospect, Conn., on October 22, 2023, with his family close by his side. He was born on July 1, 1952, in Winsted, Conn., the son of Owen Joseph Byrne and Phyllis Curtiss (née Torrance) Byrne. He grew up in Norfolk, Conn., the 6th of 8 children, building forts and playing army in the woods, fishing, ice skating at Pond Hill, sliding behind their house, and swimming at Toby Pond. He got A’s in school without really studying, frustrating his siblings. It seemed he just had to read something once to know it. As a teen, he caddied at the golf club and worked at the local hardware store. For fun, he went spelunking and rock climbing with friends, or raced down local dirt roads in their “doodlebug,” an old Ford Falcon station wagon he and his brothers had cut the roof off of with a hacksaw. As a family, they went camping with their mother in her VW camper-van. They took yearly hikes to Mount Greylock, Monument Mountain, and Mount Everett in Mass., or to Bear Mountain in Conn. At home, there were family picnics down by the apple tree.
Dave joined the science club and drama club, where his wit and ease in front of a crowd served him well. He had a mischievous side. In high school he and some friends snuck onto the football field of a rival high school and fertilized the grass with their own school’s name. It was unnoticeable until the grass grew in and then it remained visible for the rest of the season. He began college studying hospitality and hotel management with plans to follow in his father’s path. He switched directions and trained to be an EMT and a paramedic, graduating from Waterbury Hospital in the first class of paramedics in the country. He worked for Waterbury Ambulance Company for over 25 years, eventually becoming part owner in the company. He married Marianne Wisniewski of Preston, Conn., in 1982, and was her devoted partner for 41 years. He adored her and was a caring, dedicated husband. David’s steadfast devotion to Marianne extended to his wife’s family, whom he embraced as his own. They worked well as a team, with a knack for anticipating each other's needs. Together they volunteered to make their community a better place and enjoyed hosting gatherings at their home. They shared a devotion and pride in their daughters and all they have accomplished, grateful for the creative, caring, thoughtful women they have become. Marianne and David loved traveling and searching for wild flowers. He was well versed in the natural world and also enjoyed sharing the history of whatever area he was in, making the journey a richer experience. Together they spread beauty around them, blooming like the flowers that fill their yard. David was intensely proud of his daughters Reagan and Taylor. He supported everything they did, proudly displaying their schools’ logos on his bumper stickers and sweatshirts. He supported their interests and boasted of their latest accomplishments to anyone around him. He enthusiastically encouraged their wildest plans, urging them to take advantage of the opportunities life offered. He was their biggest fan. He was a many-faceted man and a well-integrated leader of his community. He and Marianne co-chaired the project to build the Field of Dreams playground at Hotchkiss Park, earning him the name “Mr. Play-scape” from the mayor. David was elected chairman of the Board of Education for Conn. Region 16. He and the Board succeeded in building Woodland Regional High School serving Beacon Falls and Prospect, a project that had been voted down for many years. David was there when they broke ground, and he was later able to see both of his daughters graduate from the new school.
Dave was a sailor. He and Marianne began sailing with Marianne’s father, back when they were dating and later took lessons in Marblehead, Mass. The last boat he owned was a Freedom 38 named Hakuna Matata. He loved sailing to Napatree Point, Cutty Hunk, Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Newport, or Woods Hole. He especially enjoyed sailing in bad weather, standing at the helm in his bright yellow rain slicker buffered against the wind with a huge grin on his face. He and Marianne organized trips that pulled their extended family together: whether it was to Abaco, Bahamas, where Dave made braided bracelets for everyone and had beach ceremonies bestowing honorary nicknames on family members; or in New Hampshire for skiing weekends; or the Byrne family reunions where he was fondly known as “Uncle David the Great” to his great-great nieces and nephews. David and Marianne enjoyed hosting dinners and holidays at their home and did so with grace and easy hospitality. Keeping family traditions alive and passing them down through the generations was important to them. Holidays and celebrations were always better, bigger, and more organized thanks to their creativity and attention to detail. He was a confident and captivating public speaker. He gave speeches at Woodland’s graduations and was known to recite epic Scottish poetry. He was also the one his Polish father-in-law would first turn to when it was time to sing “Sto Lat” at a Wisniewski celebration. David was a man who enjoyed fun. He was playful and extremely outgoing. He took the time to talk to everyone, young and old, sharing stories with them and easily finding ways to make personal connections. Quick with a laugh, or a bad joke. He loved entertaining and made a mean Manhattan — always being sure to offer the dividends. He enjoyed a good single malt scotch, rum, a Rusty Nail on the rocks, or a “Shower Beer.” He took pride in having the right clothes for every event: whether it was his vestments in church; a Huskies sweatshirt when cheering for his favorite team, UConn Women’s Basketball; his bow tie and jacket as a Palace Theater Guard; or, of course, his kilt that he wore for many holidays and celebrations. Dave’s love of music was deep and wide. His home often had a soundtrack — actually, he had a soundtrack for everything: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for Sunday Breakfast, traditional Irish music during the entire month of March, there was music for washing dishes or driving in your car with the windows down, boat music, pool-side music, and he played “Hakuna Matata” every time his sailboat entered a port to announce their arrival. David was deeply spiritual. At St. Anthony Church, he served as the Volunteer Coordinator and the Master of Ceremonies. He was particularly proud of the Altar Servers Ministry. Under his guidance, he grew the program, trained new servers, and treated the servers with honor. It was a ministry he took pride in, and, in turn, he instilled pride in the servers themselves. He took pride in most everything to which he decided to dedicate himself. Pride and honor were two driving forces in his life. He was extremely proud of his family’s history and was a skilled researcher of genealogy. His mother was a member of the Scottish Clan Buchanan. Dave could be found leading the Buchanans at events far and wide: at the New Hampshire Highland Games each September, marching in the Tartan day Parade through the streets of New York City, or celebrating the 50 year anniversary of Clan Buchanan Society International in 2020. As David rose up in the Clan organization, the organization grew as a result of his involvement. He made their presence at the Highland Games so popular that even people who were not part of the Buchanan Clan sought them out. Some came to the Buchanan tent to be part of the community, others came to ask David about all things genealogy. David organized the celebration of “1000 Years a Clan” at the Clan Buchanan’s AGM held at the Loon Mountain Games in 2016. David and Marianne were invited to march in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland in 2017; the first time the clans had been invited back to Edinburg Castle in hundreds of years. David was elected President of the Clan Buchanan Society International in 2018. In the following years the clan reinstated their Chief of the Name and Arms of Buchanan, the first in more than 340 years. In 2022, David and Marianne were invited to Perthshire, Scotland, for the coronation of a new chieftain of the Clan Buchanan. David is survived by his wife, Marianne, his two daughters, Reagan Byrne of Boston, Mass. and Taylor Byrne of Somerville, Mass., his grand-dog, Flyp, and his siblings: Thomas Byrne of Fort Myers, Fla.; Maureen Larsen of Hilton Head, S.C.; Richard Byrne of Norfolk, Deirdre Escheman of Challenge, Calif.; Kathryn (Ky) Byrne of Norfolk; and John Byrne of Thurmont, Maryland. He was predeceased by his brother Philip. Services will be held this Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, at St. Anthony Church, 4 Union City Road, Prospect, Conn. Visitation from 10:00 AM -11:00 AM, followed by a Funeral Mass at 11:00 AM. Clan colors are welcome. In lieu of flowers, donations in the memory of David Byrne may be made to The Clan Buchanan: Conveners Grant Fund, sent to Clan Buchanan c/o Gina McQuatters 112 Black Jack Lane Burleson, TX 76028 or via PayPal at email@example.com.