In a spirited discussion of whit and determination, Alice Garfield Byrne of West Bend, WI (formally of Franklin Park, IL) lost a 100-year debate with the Almighty in the early morning hours of September 25, 2021. Born to Mary and Stephen Garfield on a cool, misty morning of May 4th, 1921, her parents never anticipated the whirlwind of a life she would lead with a tenacity not seen by many of the day. The eldest of three, brothers Frank and Bob always knew who was in charge.
Raised as a devout Catholic and continued to be until her passing. And as a student of the world around her, Alice was a steward of nature and all things wild. Above all, she excelled in helping those around her in need. Shortly after attending Western Reserve University, where she received her Master’s in Nursing in Cleveland, Ohio. On what was an otherwise usual Sunday morning in 1944 the front-page headlines of the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced a request from Congress to draft nurses; World War II had begun. If drafted, you entered the Army as private, but volunteering would get you in a Second Lieutenant status. The bigger the responsibly, the more Alice liked it, so she enlisted as a Second Lieutenant. The eager young nurse was initially told she would be the Chief Nurse of a M.A.S.H unit. Upon staging in Fort Knox Kentucky, a Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the hospital admired Alice’s qualifications and put her in charge of the Regional Hospital of 3000. At 23, she began a life-long journey of service, which some say paled in comparison to the challenges to come.
Shortly after leaving the service in April 1946, mutual friends introduced her to a quiet Irish boy, Peter (Pete) Byrne from the Chicago area at a dinner party. The rest is History. Pete and Alice married on July 24, 1948, in Canton, Ohio with Reverend Ernest J. Smith officiating.
Pete and Alice began their first adventure as husband and wife in an old Army jeep on an expedition to St. Augustine, Florida where they both worked fulltime jobs for a year and a half. The jeep had no heat and plastic windows, but it would eventually bring them back home to Illinois. It was the beginning of what can be most accurately described as “The Brat Pack.” Frankie (Frank), Joey (Joseph), Johnny (John) and Bobby (Robert) gave Pete and Alice a run for their money with enough mischief and trips “downtown” to give her more grief than a hospital full of 3,000 patients ever could.
Despite the challenge of raising four mischievous boys Pete and Alice were extremely proud of the family they had built together. When son John was diagnosed with Schizophrenia in his teenage years (always suspecting it was the result of a high fever at a young age), she became a tireless, nationally recognized mental health advocate for those who needed a voice for more than 60 years. Alice worked as a nurse for 25 years in the City of Chicago and later for the Chicago Public Schools; she never wavered from helping others and had an inherent interest in the world around her.
Helping others and an inherent interest in the world around her was only second to her and Pete’s love of travel to everywhere from Budapest, Thailand, Australia, Egypt, to Hawaii, Alaska, and many more predetermined destinations. Because of her passion to help her dear son, John motivated her to be involved with organizations such as NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) of which she continued her advocation for the rest of her life.
In her later years she rarely slowed down, and it was her love of taking care of others that kept her motivated even in her final days. Like her boys, her grandchildren were the other loves of her life.
Alice was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Peter; parents, Stephen and Mary Garfield; and brothers, Frank and Bob Garfield. Alice’s legacy continues with sons, Frank Byrne of West Bend, WI; Joseph Byrne, of Colorado Springs, CO; John Byrne of Chicago, IL; and Robert (Kari) Byrne of Villa Park, IL. She is further survived by grandchildren, Nannette Byrne-Haupt, Colorado Springs, CO; Robert Byrne, West Allis, WI; David (Katie) Byrne, GA; and Daniel Byrne, Villa Park, IL.
Alice is also survived by nieces and nephews, Nancy (Bill) Adams, Wadsworth, OH; Barbara (Greg) Gemetin, Navarre, OH; Linda Pollack, Jackson Township, Ohio; and David Garfield of Phoenix AZ. She is further survived by great-grandchildren Joyce, Rusty, Jacob, Caroline, and twins Cheyanne and Jolene, as well as many other relatives and friends.
A date of the memorial to celebrate Alice’s life is yet to be determined. The family would like to thank the staff at Kathy’s Hospice and Cedar Community of West Bend WI, for their care and compassion in Alice’s final days. Please consider signing our online guest book (www.myrhum-patten.com) to share your memories of Alice. Cards may be sent in the care of Myrhum-Patten Funeral and Cremation Service, 1315 W. Washington Street, West Bend, WI 53095.
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