Danford Murray Byrens Jr. passed away peacefully on Sunday, August 27 at the home of his daughter Sue who lovingly cared for both Dan and his wife, Emily, for nearly two years. Dan was born on November 13, 1932 in Buffalo, New York, to his parents, Gladys Evelyn Wade Byrens and Danford Murray Byrens, Sr.
His was an athletic family with both his parents working as gym teachers and coaches and his brother David excelled in several sports. Dan generally pursued other interests, but he was, at one point, the backstroke champion of his school. He also achieved the lifelong goal of obtaining his pilot’s license in the mid 1970’s.
Dan lived his life surrounded by music, a love that he shared with his late wife, Emily Frances Hills Byrens who passed away Christmas Day, 2022. He started taking organ lessons in high school and obtained an undergraduate degree in Organ Performance from Oberlin College in 1954. He then moved to New York City where he attended Union Theological Seminary and met his future wife, Emily. Both received their Master of Music degrees in Sacred Music.
Dan is survived by his brother, David and Paula Byrens of Oakland, California, seven children: Margaret and Kent Kuiper of Bellevue, Dr. David and Kim Byrens of Marshall, Dan and Kim Byrens of Duck Lake, Robert Byrens and Jerome Nickels of Grand Rapids, Steve and Sonia Byrens of Marshall, Sue and Mike Wilson of Marshall, and Tracy Byrens of Hampton, Virginia. Dan and Emily found tremendous joy in their extended family of 32 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.
Dan and Emily shared their musical talents with many church congregations around the country including Olivet Congregational Church, The First Congregational Church of Battle Creek, Saint Thomas Episcopal Church of Battle Creek, Trinity Episcopal Church of Marshall, as well as churches in Tennessee and Alabama.
Dan was a much-beloved professor at both Kalamazoo and Olivet Colleges, where he directed choral ensembles as well as teaching organ, music history and theory. He and Emily also led vocal student ensembles that performed in various churches throughout Europe. After retiring from Olivet College, they accepted positions at Silliman University in the Philippines where they taught sacred music. Upon returning to the states, they relocated to the Uplands Retirement Community in Tennessee. There, they continued their legacy of performing sacred music in the Congregational Church, as well as conducting and playing for both church and community choirs. They eventually returned to Marshall to be near family.
Dan was a gifted yet humble man, a gentle soul and a servant leader who was admired by many and deeply loved by his family, friends and students. Dan’s family will hold a private celebration at a later date. If you feel moved to honor his memory, please make a contribution to The University of Olivet in his name.