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Obituary: Col. John Byers, 85, Former Planning Commissioner

John Byers, a decorated veteran, is credited with laying the foundation for the redevelopment of Route 1.

Former Mount Vernon District Planning Commissioner John Byers passed away on Sunday. He was 85 years old.

Byers served as Mount Vernon's Planning Commissioner for 21 years, 10 of those as vice-chair of the Planning Commission. Byers also served on the PLUS Committee, the precursor to the Comprehensive Plan, and was chair of the Fairfax County Group Residential Facilities Commission. He served on every Area Plan Review Task Force for the Mount Vernon District and was chair of the Mount Vernon Visioning Task Force's Land Use Committee. 

For more than 35 years, Byers was a member of the Mount Vernon Council's Planning and Zoning Committee and was elected four times to serve as president of the Williamsburg Manor North Community Association. 

He was a charter member of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation and was elected the Mount Vernon Council's Citizen of the Year in 1994. In 1997, he was honored with the Lord Fairfax award for outstanding volunteer service in the Mount Vernon District.

Byers is credited for laying the foundation for the revitalization and transformation of Richmond Highway. He helped achieve the development of land at Parkers Lane and Sherwood Hall Lane, which now includes Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, the Mount Vernon government center, fire station, police station, school, library, mental health center and public health facility.

"John dedicated his life to the service of others," Supervisor Gerry Hyland said in a statement. "Every person who lives in the Mount Vernon District has benefited from his tireless work on our behalf. My friend and colleague, John, will be deeply missed.”

Byers graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1951 with a B.S. in military engineering. He earned an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and an M.B.A. from Central Michigan University. Byrne retired in 1975 as a full colonel after more than three decades of service. He served in  World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, two commands in Germany and assignment to the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he was made chief of Armor Branch in 1973. 

His military decorations include four Legion of Merit awards, the Soldiers Medal, two Bronze Stars, three Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Meritorious Service Medal, three Army Commendation Medals and the Purple Heart. He retired from his second career as manager of the Arlington offices of Data-Design Laboratories to become owner and director of the Prince Royal Gallery in Old Town Alexandria for 20 years.

Byers is survived by his wife Peggy; his three children Susan, Leslie and Dan, their spouses, his nine grandchildren, and seven surviving brothers and sisters. 

The family will welcome visitors at the Demaine Funeral Home, 520 S. Washington Street, on August 13 from 4 to 8 p.m. A memorial service will be held on August 14 at 4:30 p.m. at the Old Main Post Belvoir Chapel (5950 12th St., near the former Dewitt Hospital). It will be followed by a reception at the Officers Club, 5500 Schulz Circle #20. A funeral service and interment, followed by a reception, will take place at Fort Myer and Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

Kari Warren August 06, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Mr. Byers was an incredible advocate for our community. Balancing the diversity of our area, and trying to make everything hospitable for all, he was a true warrior. Our loss will be felt on many fronts. Few people I have ever known compare to his enthusiasm and absolute compassion for all of our citizens. RIP Col. Byers.
alicia bojko August 11, 2012 at 06:13 PM
I worked for John many years ago when he was with DDL and out of all the people I have ever worked for, or for that matter, or known John has had the greatest impact on my life. He was a remarkable manager, a wonderful friend and a genuinely good soul. I will miss you my friend - RIP

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