Shirley Reinhardt Byrd, prominent actress of stage, television, film


Shirley Reinhardt Byrd, who rose from Miss Howard County to become one of the Baltimore area's most prominent actresses, died Wednesday of heart failure in her Oakenshawe home.

"Onstage, she was one of the most giving, generous, sincere actresses," said F. Scott Black, owner of the Towson dinner theater that bears his name. "The stage was her life."

Ms. Reinhardt's acting career carried her through the stage, film and television, earning her credits in more than 150 productions. She appeared in films with such actors as Alan Alda, Robert Redford and George C. Scott, and her daytime soap opera appearances included "One Life to Live" and "Texas."

She earned critical acclaim for her work on the New York stage, including "Show Me a Hero" and "Bea's Place," and she toured nationally with Forrest Tucker, Broderick Crawford, Carrie Nye and Alexis Smith, among others.

But it was on the stages of Maryland where Ms. Reinhardt made her biggest impression -- particularly when paired with her husband, Richard D. Byrd. Mr. Byrd, who died in 1992, frequently directed, produced and appeared in productions with his wife of almost 30 years.

"They were soul mates," said Ms. Reinhardt's stepdaughter, Cynthia Byrd Torr of Baltimore. "They did everything together in their time. They loved the theater together."

Ms. Reinhardt appeared in the inaugural production of "La Ronde" to launch Center Stage's first season in 1963, and she held the Baltimore record for the longest appearance in a single role -- the heroine in "The Drunkard," a melodrama that ran for 27 years at the former Four Corner Cabaret Theater.

"She was born to be onstage and she lived to be onstage," said John Bruce Johnson, former president of the Vagabond Players and co-star with Ms. Reinhardt for a time in "The Drunkard." "That's where she was happiest."

Ms. Reinhardt played the leading role in "Dark of the Moon" to mark the Vagabond Players' 50th anniversary.

Ms. Reinhardt kept her age a closely guarded secret, though she was generally believed to be in her 60s. She also used several different spellings of her first and last names while appearing on stage and in life, most recently favoring Sheryl Ryanharrt.

Her final major starring role was in a female version of "The Odd Couple" with Jeannie Walden in 1992, which was put on at both F. Scott Black's Dinner Theater and the Princess Royale in Ocean City.

Within a year of her husband's death, Ms. Reinhardt decided to strike out on her own, buying a shop in Sandwich, Mass., near Cape Cod. She set up the Dancing Angel gift shop and the Ryanharrt Gallery, displaying her own oil paintings as well as other jewelry and crafts.

She continued to maintain her home in Baltimore, though she no longer appeared in theater.

Born in Ellicott City, Ms. Reinhardt graduated from Ellicott City High School, winning the Miss Howard County competition in her late teens.

She worked for the telephone company for several years as she built her acting career into a full-time profession. A marriage to Donald Hermann in the 1950s ended in divorce.

Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. today at Slack Funeral Home in Ellicott City, followed by interment at Woodlawn Cemetery. A reception will follow at F. Scott Black's Dinner Theatre.

In addition to her stepdaughter, Ms. Reinhardt is survived by a stepson, Richard D. Byrd Jr. of Baltimore; and two brothers, Bob Reinhardt of Sykesville and Harry Reinhardt of Mount Airy.

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