Richard (Rich) Lee Byerly, 81, slipped peacefully away on a beautiful sunny afternoon and joined his Savior on May 23, 2020.
A public Memorial Service with Masonic Rites will be held at 12 Noon, Saturday, May 30, 2020 at Pearson Family Funeral Service & Cremation Center, 809 W. Montgomery St. in Creston, IA. Rev. Jim Morris will Officiate. Rich will be laid to rest in the Linwood Park Cemetery, 609 Forest Ave., Boone, IA at 3:30 PM. Memories and condolences may be shared online at www.pearsonfuneralhomes.com. Due to COVID-19 and out of an abundance of caution, face masks are recommended.
Rich grew up on the family farm in Boone, IA. His love of the land would remain his entire life. He was an accomplished athlete and excelled at basketball, football, and track, competing at the college and semi-pro level. As a young man he was a teacher and Athletic Director in Gilbert, IA. He spoke of those years with affection for the rest of his life, and cherished the life-long relationships he had with former students and athletes. During these years he earned his Ph.D. from Iowa State University.
Rich had a lifelong love of the outdoors. Hunting and fishing were two of his favorite hobbies. As a young man he would work as a fishing guide for a resort in Canada, and was billed as Pierre, the French Canadian guide - his sleek black hair, broken French, and good looks adding to the character. He raised greyhounds and wolfhounds and loved the camaraderie of his hunting friends. Throughout his life he wrote articles for outdoor publications such as Outdoor Life and Field & Stream. He even wrote a book, “60 Years Gone to the Dogs,” a collection of his favorite hunting stories. He was a true sportsman.
Rich began working for Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in 1970. He rose to become a vice president before becoming president of Southwestern Community College (SWCC) in Creston, IA. He left a large imprint on both DMACC and SWCC. In DMACC he led the state in grant awards, and was instrumental in establishing the DMACC Urban Campus in Des Moines. In many ways he was the face of DMACC during those years. At SWCC, he set out to build and improve the small institution. Within several years he tripled enrollment to over twelve hundred students. He oversaw the expansion of the facility and built two new satellite education centers in Osceola and Red Oak. He implemented new programs and never forgot his teacher roots, when he worked to create the “Total Trust” system as an experiment in shared governance with faculty. His work in education and politics led him to write numerous books on administrative subjects. He was a leader in the Iowa Association of Community College Presidents (IACCP).
While these accomplishments are impressive, Rich was also an Iowa State Legislator from 1973 -1983 representing House District 61 which included Ankeny and surrounding communities. With his political charisma and sharp intellect he rose to leadership positions in the Democratic caucus an became the Assistant House Minority Leader in the Iowa House of Representatives. The 1970’s saw major legislative change. He did not fear controversy and was politically astute. Rich had great influence in the development of the legislation that created the Iowa Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS), due to his strong background in math and finance. He battled for collective bargaining and was supported by labor leaders across the state. He was deeply committed to ensuring all Iowans were equally represented and truly believed that one voice could change the world.
He joined the Masons in 1965 as a young man in Boone, IA. He was an active member of the Crest City Masonic Lodge #522, in Creston, Iowa. He attained the level of 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason.
He is preceded in death by his parents Virgil and Bessie Byerly; his sister Marilyn Angle; and his brother Virgil Byerly.
He is survived by his wife Christi K. Byerly, and his children, Lynda Byerly (Mary) of Tonasket, WA; Rick Byerly (Susan) of Fort Worth, TX; Kimberly McAndrews of Fort Worth, TX; Tony Byerly (Kari) of Hudson, OH; Todd Byerly (Ashley) of Riverton, WY; Nathan Byerly (Lynette) of Las Vegas, NV; Jason Merboth of Creston, IA; Josh Merboth of Monona, IA; eleven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren.