George William Byers, retired professor of entomology at the University of Kansas, died at the Lawrence Memorial Hospital on 1, January. He was born on 16 May 1923, in Washington, D.C., son of George and Helen (Kessler) Byers. The family moved to Lafayette, Indiana, where he attended grade school and high school. He was second of eight children. During high school years, he attained the rank of Eagle Scout (BSA), served a year as editor of his high school’s newspaper, and was chosen an outstanding high school student of the midwest, by the Chicago Tribune.
Early in 1942, when a student at Purdue University, he enlisted as a private in the Army, in field artillery, later attended officer training (OCS), and by the end of World War II was a first lieutenant. Following college training in biology and specializing in entomology at the University of Michigan, he was recalled to active duty, transferred to the Army’s Medical Service Corps, and sent to Korea to head a research unit to study a regional disease called epidemic hemorrhagic fever, to determine its cause in military personnel and how it could be controlled. After a few other, brief periods of active duty, he retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel.
He married Lt. Gloria B. Wong, an Army nurse, on 16 December 1955, and together they raised three sons, in Lawrence: Bruce A. (born 28 Dec. 1958), Brian W. (14 May 1964] and Douglas E. (24 Dec. 1965). From a previous marriage, to Martha Esther Sparks, on 25 Feb. 1945, came son George W. (born 25 Feb. 1946, died 29 Apr. 2009) and daughter Carolyn S. (16 April 1948),
In 1956, he joined the Department of Entomology, at the University of Kansas, teaching systematic entomology, medical entomology, and some other courses, and curating the insect collection in the Snow Entomological Museum (later named the Entomology Division of the Biodiversity Institute of the University). He also taught a summer course in general entomology, alternate summers from 1961 to 1992 at Mountain Lake Biological Station, University of Virginia, and once at the University of Minnesota biological station, Lake Itasca. For more than 30 years his research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.
Twice he served as department chairman, 1969-1972 and 1984-1987. He retired in 1988 but retained office and laboratory space, where he continued research on crane flies and scorpionflies until the time of his death.
The family will welcome friends at a reception Saturday, 6 January, 2-4 p.m. at 2707 Oxford Rd. The family requests no flowers, but contributions in memory of George may be made to a charity of the donor’s choice.