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BYRNE, Robert

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BYRNE, Robert. (Dubuque, IA, May 22, 1930--Dubuque, IA, Dec. 6, 2016). Byrne attended St. Columbkille's elementary school, LORAS ACADEMY, and LORAS COLLEGE. He wrote a humor column in the school newspaper at Iowa State University before transferring to the University of Colorado from which he graduated with a civil engineering degree. In 1954, he began his career as a junior civil engineer for the City and County of San Francisco, Department of Engineering, Bureau of Public Works, Division of Highways. (1)

On May 12, 1958, Byrne married Josefa Heifetz, concert pianist and daughter of legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz. On May 16, 1962, Josefa gave birth to Russell Heifetz Byrne, their only child, who worked as a network consulting engineer for Cisco Systems. Byrne and Heifetz were divorced in 1976. On May 9, 1991, Byrne married Cynthia Nelms, a graphic artist and painter. (2)

Byrne edited Western Construction, a trade journal in the heavy construction industry and became its editor. He remained in that position for ten years. Byrne and his wife returned to Dubuque in 1995. He began writing a monthly column for the TELEGRAPH HERALD in 2000. (3)

Byrne wrote or compiled 23 books, including seven novels, two of which were set in Dubuque: Memories of a Non-Jewish Childhood (1970), titled Once a Catholic in paperback, and Always a Catholic (1981). The former was made into a musical by David RESNICK in 2005 and staged by the GRAND OPERA HOUSE. A revival of the musical renamed "Fish on Friday" was scheduled for the Bell Tower Theater in August 2017. (4) One of his novels, Thrill, was developed into NBC’s Monday Night Movie, which aired for the first time on May 20, 1996. Four of his novels were selections of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books and published in many languages.

Byrne wrote widely in the field of BILLIARDS and pool. These books include Byrne's Complete Book of Pool Shots: 350 Moves Every Player Should Know, Byrne's New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards, Byrne's Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards, Byrne's Advanced Technique in Pool and Billiards, and Byrne's Wonderful World of Pool and Billiards. Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool and Billiards, published in 1978 and expanded in 1998, sold over 400,000 copies.

Byrne's contributions to billiards and pool were widely recognized. In 1994 he received the Industry Service Award from the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America, an honor previously bestowed on Willie Mosconi, Paul Newman, and Jackie Gleason. He received the greatest honor in the sport, induction for Meritorious Service into the Billiard Congress of America’s Hall of Fame, on July 21, 2001, at the Las Vegas Hilton at a banquet closing the annual world billiard trade show. He was inducted with many-times world billiard champion Raymond Ceulemans of Belgium. (5)

As a player, Byrne won tournaments in almost every form of the game. In 1977 he finished third in the National Professional Three-Cushion Championship held in North Hollywood, California. In 1999, he won both the National Amateur and the National Senior billiard tournaments. (6) He was a Class A tournament chess player with a United States Chess Federation rating over 1800.

Byrne was also an amateur stage magician, a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and published tricks in Genie magazine.

Byrne's civic involvement in Dubuque included serving as president of the Friends of Wahlert Library, Loras College, and as a board member of both the DUBUQUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and DUBUQUE MUSEUM OF ART. (7)





1. The Byrne Family History, self-published, Linda Byrne Brown, 2001 (Wikipedia)

2. "Robert Byrne" Wikipedia

3. Jacobson, Ben. "TH Columnist Leaves Legacy of Laughter," Telegraph Herald, December 8, 2016, p. 3A

4. Ibid.

5. "Byrne's Books and Billiards," Online: http://www.byrne.org/

6. Ibid.

7. "Robert Byrne"

Robert Byrne. YouTube user:SZYrVGVnjog

Robert Byrne. YouTube user:6Cqt7XTEePQ