William “Bill” Byers, 80, of Kansas City, MO peacefully passed away Thursday, November 7th, 2019 surrounded by family.
Bill’s early childhood nickname was “The Rebel” as he seldom liked, then, or ever, to be told what to do or that he couldn’t do it. That may be why, prior to his sophomore year in high school, Bill transferred from Southwest High School to Kemper Military Academy in Boonville, MO. The following three years of high school and subsequent two years of college at Kemper had a profound and lastingimpact on Bill’s life. He cherished his time and experiences there as a cadet, football player, and track star. Bill credits his personal and business model of “do what’s right, no matter what” to the influences of his mentors at Kemper. Upon leaving the academy, he had attained the rank of Major andaccording to Bill “could have been a Colonel or Battalion Commander if I hadn’t been so unpredictable.” Years later Bill served as a member of the Kemper board of trustees. Bill finished his college experience as a pole vaulter and sprinter at the University of Denver with a degree in Business and Real Estate.
Bill put his business and real estate degree to good use with his foray into the fuel business with a leased service station in south Kansas City circa 1963. That service station led to his first truck stop in Blue Springs, Missouri, eventually owning and operating additional travel centers, Brazil 70 in Brazil, Indiana and The Prospector in Verdi, Nevada.Bill loved the excitement and energy it took to create and build a business, leading to ownership in Place’s restaurant on the Country Club Plaza, TJ Cinnamon’s locations in Indianapolis, and too many real estate transactions to count. He and his business partner of many years, William Howie, even enjoyed a short stint as owners of the iconic Nichols Lunch.
Bill’s truck stop business/real estate development experience eventually led him to Cohen Esrey Real Estate, where his commercial real estate background fit in naturally with all the amazing friends and colleagues he met there. He also resumed his interest in lifelong learning with executive programs at Cornell and Harvard.
When he wasn’t working, Bill loved to spend weekends with his wife, Donna, and his growing kids, Scott and Chris, at the Lake of the Ozarks on the “Endeavor”, their sailboat and summer home for many years. He was active his entire life, sailing, hiking, skiing, playing tennis, and walking around his beloved Loose Park up until his final few weeks.
Bill’s life journey brought him many amazing friends, business colleagues, and partners. Bill’s humility and positivity drew people to him. There was never anyone Bill wouldn’t try to help, and throughout all of his businesses and thousands of employees over his 60-year working career, there wasn’t one that Bill didn’t genuinely make an effort to know and care about. With Bill business was challenging and often fun, but the people were the most important thing.
After years of working with and for so many people, Bill finally decided it was time to take a break. In 2007, with mixed emotions, Bill sold his last remaining truck stop, Brazil 70, and retired to become a fulltime husband and “Grandpa Bill.” After retirement Bill and Donna split their time between Midway, Utah, exploring and experiencing the wonders of the Beehive State, and Kansas City.
Alzheimer’s eventually reduced Bill’s travels to daily walks around Loose Park regardless of the weather. He loved the trees, the other walkers and all the dogs, and loved to tell people “This is a great park.”Alzheimer’s took Bill’s memories but couldn’t take away the love and caring he felt from lifelong friends who stayed by his side until the end of his earthly life.
He is survived by his wife, life partner, and love of his life for 43 years, Donna; his son, William Scott Byers of Denver, CO; Scott’s mother, Sarah Hagedorn Byers; his son, Chris Cronk, and Chris’wife, Caroline Wiese, of Charlotte, NC. Bill was a very proud grandfather and is survived by his threegrandchildren, Regan, Justine, and Garrett. He is also survived by his brother, Pete Byers, sister-in-law, Dee Dee Byers, and nearly forty nieces and nephews plus many more great nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to thank the staff of Brookdale Shawnee Memory Care and the amazing response team of Ascend Hospice for the loving care and support they provided to Bill in his last few weeks/days and hours of life. There is a special place in heaven for those individuals who care for Alzheimer’s victims and their families.
A visitation will be held from 10-11 AM, service 11 AM, on Tuesday, November 12, at Longview Funeral Home and Cemetery, 12700 SE Raytown Rd, Kansas City, MO 64149. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association Heart of America Chapter, 3846 W. 75thStreet, Prairie Village, KS 66208.