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John A. Byrd Sr., distillery worker and music fan, dies

John A. Byrd Sr. served in the Army from 1962 to 1965 and was a forklift operator at the old Joseph E. Seagram & Sons Inc. for 34 years until retiring in 1999.
John A. Byrd Sr. served in the Army from 1962 to 1965 and was a forklift operator at the old Joseph E. Seagram & Sons Inc. for 34 years until retiring in 1999. (Courtesy photo)

John A. Byrd Sr., a retired distillery worker who had wide-ranging musical tastes, died June 2 of a heart attack at Future Care Homewood on North Charles Street. The longtime Govans resident was 75.

John Andrew Byrd Sr., the son of John Byrd, a Bethlehem Steel Corp. welder, and his wife, Ottris Kesiah Hodge Byrd, a Coppin State University financial administrator, was born in Baltimore and raised in Ashburton, where one of his neighbors, family members said, was Colts Hall of Fame halfback Lenny Moore.

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After graduating from Carver Vocational-Technical High School, Mr. Byrd attended Coppin briefly before enlisting in the Army, where he served with the infantry from 1962 until an honorable discharge in 1965.

Mr. Byrd was employed as a forklift operator at the old Joseph E. Seagram & Sons Inc. for 34 years until retiring in 1999.

The longtime Govans resident enjoyed grilling steaks and ribs for family and friends, working in his garden, and maintaining his swimming pool.

“He could cook anything,” said his daughter, Angela Byrd of Pasadena.

Mr. Byrd was an avid fan of thoroughbred racing and the Preakness, and his favorite racehorse was Secretariat, his daughter said. He also liked watching football, baseball, boxing and golf, and classic Hollywood Westerns featuring Clint Eastwood.

A man of wide-ranging musical tastes, he enjoyed listening to “musical genres from doo-wop to pop,” Ms. Byrd said. His favorite recording artists included Marvin Gaye, The Chi-Lites, The Temptations, Chicago, Three Dog Night and Michael Jackson.

“He was known for his bluntness, wisdom and keeping it real,” his daughter said.

Funeral services were held Saturday at the Wylie Funeral Home in Randallstown.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Byrd is survived by a son, John A. Byrd Jr. of Govans; a brother, Donald Lee Byrd of Woodmoor in Baltimore County; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His marriage to the former Desney Green ended in divorce.

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