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Toody Byrd

Obituary for Toody Byrd

October 10, 1924 - April 1, 2018
Bay City, Texas | Age 93

Obituary

From the moment of her 1924 birth at the McDermett Ranch in Callahan County, Texas, when her twelve-year-old brother anointed her with the name "Toody," Toody McDermett Byrd was shaped by her independent, tenacious, and spirited West Texas childhood. The daughter of a second-generation "bigger than life," highly respected and loved rancher, Hugh McDermett, who raised prized registered Hereford cattle, practiced self-educated veterinary medicine for his friends and neighbors, and served as President of the Callahan County School Board for decades, Toody was instilled with a sense of herself and her roots at an early age. Her tiny, feisty homemaker mother, Anne Garrett McDermett, ruled the home and cooked for ranch hands and family on a wood-burning cook stove, while also reading voraciously and reciting Shakespeare and well-loved poems to Toody. Family storytelling, often filled with salty language and hilarious tales, was a treasured art on the McDermett ranch, setting the stage for Toody's lifetime of wise and funny stories.

Toody attended North Texas State University for a year before marrying her high school sweetheart, Hoyt Byrd, on September 2, 1942, a marriage that endured and thrived until her death on April 1st, 2018. Although her education would be completed later, with her undergraduate degree from the University of Corpus Christi (now a part of Texas A&M), and graduate counseling credentials at the University of Texas in Austin, Toody's actual career in education began shortly after her marriage, in a small country school in Cross Cut, Texas, where she embraced her wartime position as teacher and principal, the latter title, she often touted, was awarded because she could "run faster than the big boys." In the ensuing years, Toody and Hoyt became parents to Judy and Alan and lived across Texas as Hoyt taught and coached and Toody taught middle school social studies. In Toody's own spirited, salty words: "I've also been the coach's wife. Now in Texas, that is a rare opportunity. That's where you have to wait until after the ballgame to find out if you're married to the smartest man in the world or the dumbest SOB who ever lived (and it changed from week to week)."

After moving to Austin, where Hoyt began his career with the Texas Education Agency, Toody became a school counselor, initially at University Junior High, and later at Westlake High School and as the Director of Guidance and Student Services (Toody often joked the Director of "Gas") for the Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas. In 1991, after twenty years with the Eanes ISD, Toody "retired" to pursue a post-retirement career of speaking and consulting work throughout the country. She was a keynote speaker for statewide conventions in thirty-five states, an active writer, and a member of numerous professional organizations and councils. Her many awards include the American School Counselors Writing Award, the 1981 Outstanding Counselor of Texas, The 1983 Carl Brett Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Education by the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin, and the 1989 Presidential Award for the Texas Association of Counseling and Development. For many years, Toody wrote the humor column for the Texas State Counselors Journal, writing stories that would later become the basis for her book, Dear Carl. The 71st Legislature of the State of Texas designated Toody Byrd as a State Treasure. In addition to her career, Toody was a lifelong Democrat and was active and well-known throughout the Austin community, especially in her passionate support for Westlake High School and University of Texas sports!!

When Toody published her book, Toody Byrd Talks, and Talks, and Talks… in 1998, Jann Phenix-Brown of the Austin American Statesman wrote, "Every once in a while you run across someone who speaks from the heart, with great wisdom and common sense. If that person has a sense of humor as well, we should listen with our hearts as well as ears….Toody's wisdom does not come wrapped in a saccharin bow. She is saucy not stodgy…mischievous, fun-loving and somewhat irreverent—a shorter, rounder, more mature Mary Poppins." Along with her funny, spicy words of wisdom, she always focused on the principle of kindness, often asking her students in words they would recount decades later, words that lived in their hearts: "Now, is that kind?" In Toody's book, she stated, "May we all live as long as we're useful, and laugh…and learn…and love as long as we live." The indomitable Toody Byrd practiced what she preached for all her 93 years!

Toody is survived by her beloved husband of 75 years, Hoyt, her two children, Judy (Ronnie) Woodson and Alan (Kay) Byrd; four grandchildren, Jeffrey (Rachel) Woodson, Ashley (Brad) Bailey, Hugh (Kim) Byrd, Kimberly (Shane) Gibson; fourteen great-grandchildren; three nieces and nephews. Toody was preceded in death by parents, brother H, and sister Clara Nell.

A memorial service will be held for Toody at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 7th at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. Toody always joked that, while others said, "In lieu of flowers, please donate to …, she would like to say 'In addition to flowers,' please donate to …." Therefore, "in addition to flowers," Toody would welcome donations to the Toody Byrd Hugs and Kisses Scholarship Fund, established at West Lake High School upon her retirement. The fund is administered by the Austin Community Foundation at 4315 Guadalupe St., Suite 300, Austin, TX 78751.

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3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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