Marian Byrnes brought her own magic to Circle Pines

In a brief article – Magic at Circle Pines – Marian tells of how she first came to work at Circle Pines as office manager in 1971. That article appears in CPC’s 60th Reunion Anthology (1998).

Marian at her desk at CPC in 1983

The 60th Reunion Anthology also has a longer work by Marian – The Green Girl – which was written over the many years she worked at CPC. It is based on the folks she came to know and love while at CPC. (see Addendum A-10).

In addition to these two articles, Marian also headed up the effort to publish CPC’s 35th Anthology (published in 1974).

Marian also served as CPC’s Summer Camp Co-Director with Cathy Donkers in 1984.

Marian’s obituary appeared in the Chicago Tribune back in 2010. It consisted of two articles, which may be hard to access. Therefore, I’ve appended them below.

Marian Byrnes
Born: 1926
Died: 20 May 2010
Age: 84


Southeast Side activist fought for environment (abridged obituary)
Marian Byrnes, environmental activist, dies at 84
By Duaa Eldeib and Tribune reporter
1 June 2010
https://www.chicagotribune.com/living/ct-xpm-2010-06-01-ct-met-0602-byrnes-abridged-obit-20100601-story.html

Marian Byrnes was committed to keeping open space on Chicago’s heavily industrial Southeast Side, starting Citizens United to Reclaim the Environment and later heading the Southeast Environmental Task Force.

She died at age 84 on Thursday, May 20, at a friend’s home on the Southeast Side, said her friend Joane Curry. She had suffered from congestive heart failure.

She took up a number of causes in her life — including labor, civil rights, anti-war and animal welfare. Her crusade to protect the prairies and to ensure the shores of Lake Calumet stayed open made her a community icon.

A memorial service and Mass is set for 6 to 8 p.m. July 13 at Our Lady Gate of Heaven Catholic Church, 2338 E. 99th St., Chicago.

Mrs. Byrnes is survived by her son, Alan, and three grandchildren. Three other sons, David, Kevin and Brian, preceded her in death, as did her husband, Bruce Byrnes Jr.

An earlier obituary included an incorrect list of survivors.


Southeast Side activist fought for environment
By Duaa Eldeib and Tribune reporter
Chicago Tribune
May 29, 2010 at 12:00 am
https://www.chicagotribune.com/living/ct-xpm-2010-06-01-ct-met-0602-byrnes-abridged-obit-20100601-story.html

Marian Byrnes once let a raccoon spend the winter in her cupboard. She refused to put out a nest of rodents in her garage and took in as many as eight stray cats and dogs at the same time.

A friend to animals and the environment, Mrs. Byrnes even found a peaceful way to deal with an ant infiltration.

She put out a bowl of honey and hoped they died a happy death, her friend Joane Curry said.

A environmental activist who fought for open space on Chicago’s Southeast Side, Mrs. Byrnes, 84, died on Thursday, May 20, in a friend’s home on the Southeast Side, Curry said. She had suffered from congestive heart failure.

“We have people calling from across the seas asking about the things she started,” Curry said. “She was brilliant, in love with the world, the planet and all living things.”

Born in Indiana as Marian Richardson, she grew up on a farm as an only child. She attended a one-room school, and in 1938, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee with the word sanitarium. In 1946, she married Bruce Byrnes Jr., a toy salesman who died in 1966.

While at Indiana University in the early 1940s, she organized one of the first student chapters of the NAACP. With a master’s degree from the University of Chicago, Mrs. Byrnes began her career as a Chicago Public Schools teacher.

Mrs. Byrnes took up a number of causes in her life — including labor, civil rights, anti-war and animal welfare. Her crusade to protect the prairies and to ensure the shores of Lake Calumet stayed open made her a community icon.

“She was honest, hardworking and compassionate,” said Clem Balanoff, chief of staff for Cook County Clerk David Orr, who knew Mrs. Byrnes for 40 years. “She was one that when she got involved in a cause — civil, human or environmental — she wouldn’t stop until she won.”

Mrs. Byrnes was a hero to Nicole Kamins, a program director for the Chicago Department of the Environment.

“She was the strongest, most assertive woman when it came to protecting the environment I knew,” said Kamins, who worked with Mrs. Byrnes for 11 years — sometimes on opposite sides of an issue.

When Kamins first met Mrs. Byrnes, it was clear she was still a bit skeptical of city officials. With time, however, the two women formed a trusting relationship, Kamins said.

In 1979, Mrs. Byrnes organized the Committee to Protect the Prairie to block plans by the CTA to build a bus garage over half of the Van Vlissingen Prairie, which was behind her Jeffery Manor home. The open space was later renamed the Marian R. Byrnes Natural Area.

When the city proposed to pave over what some deemed an industrial wasteland on the Southeast Side to put up an airport, Mrs. Byrnes was a vocal opponent.

She was instrumental in efforts to shut down a Chemical Waste Management hazardous waste incinerator.

“She believed strongly in giving of herself for the benefit of others, be they animals or people,” her son Alan Byrnes said.

She founded Citizens United to Reclaim the Environment, which led the way for her to head the Southeast Environmental Task Force. The effort grew out of the campaign of then state Rep. Balanoff.

He hired her as a legislative aide, and she “worked 20 hours a day, seven days a week for the people of Illinois,” Balanoff said.

“She lived with the understanding that if she didn’t want something in her backyard, she didn’t want it in anyone else’s backyard,” Balanoff said.

Mrs. Byrnes is also survived by three other sons, David, Kevin and Brian, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service and mass will be celebrated July 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. July 13 at Our Lady Gate of Heaven Catholic Church, 2338 E. 99th St., Chicago.

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