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William Byron Witmer was born to Hugh Hardin Witmer and Minnie Lora Storey Witmer in Clarksville, Red River County, Texas on June 29, 1931, and died in his sleep at home on October 15, 2023, in Denton, Texas, where he and his beloved wife, Rosemary Michie Witmer, resided. He was 92 years old.
Byron grew up in English alongside his sister, Sue, his grandparents, and many Witmer and Storey cousins, before his parents moved the family to Clarksville. He was shaped by strong family relationships rooted in love, generosity, integrity, humility, hard work, a respect for the Earth, and a strong sense of community.
Always a gifted and curious student, Byron excelled academically, graduating from Clarksville High School (’47), studied briefly at Paris Junior College before transferring to Texas A&M University in College Station. There he earned a BS in Chemistry (’52), MS in Chemistry (’58), and a PhD in Chemistry (’60). He was a proud Aggie and supported Texas A&M. He served his country in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps (’52-’54) in McClellan, AL.
During the summer of 1954, Byron worked for the Texas Highway Department helping resurface a section of Hwy 82 near Avery. It was there that he met and fell in love with Rosemary Michie from Avery. They were married at the Avery Methodist Church on December 4, 1955, and made their first home in College Station, where they lived until Byron completed his dissertation at A&M.
Byron enjoyed a successful career with Monsanto, specializing in the areas of environmental health and safety issues. He worked in development and managerial positions that afforded him, Rosemary, and their children experiences and lifelong friendships with people in Decatur, AL, Durham, NC, Lingen, Germany, Guntersville, AL, Pensacola, FL, and Dayton, OH.
In his professional career, he was especially proud of his three-year assignment establishing and managing the Monsanto polymer and fiber plant in Lingen, his environmental health and safety position in Pensacola, and leading the Monsanto Mound Facility’s (DOE) project to assemble and test radioisotope thermoelectric generators for the Ulysses and Galileo space projects with NASA. He received high commendations for successfully leading this complex and high-profile project.
After retiring from Monsanto in 1985, Byron and Rosemary returned to Texas, making their home in Argyle, where they would be near their parents, siblings, and extended family.
In 1987, once settled in Argyle, Byron began working with Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) with Texas A&M, commuting to work in College Station and in Arlington until, again retiring, in 1995.
Byron and Rosemary enjoyed traveling and often visited friends and family in Texas, Alabama, and Florida, as well as participating in numerous Road Scholar trips. No matter where they were, you could always count on a competitive game of dominoes. They were patient teachers of the game, teaching grandchildren and anyone who was interested. For many years you could find Byron in his workshop crafting domino counter sets made of exotic wood and painted scoring beads.
In 2000, Byron completed training to become a Certified Volunteer Ombudsman for the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ Area Agency on Aging. He was named Ombudsman of the Year by the Texas Health Care Association, serving as an ombudsman at Cross Timbers Rehabilitation and Health Care Center. He was a respected, dependable, and compassionate advocate for the residents and their families for nineteen years. In addition, he, and Rosemary, volunteered with the Denton League of Women Voters for many years and were engaged members of the United Methodist Church.
Byron found deep joy in his life with his wife of 68 years, Rosemary. Their life together was filled with adventure, learning, challenges, and new opportunities. Most of all, they shared a deep and abiding love for each other and their family—their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Byron welcomed people with a warm smile, engaging conversation, easy laughter, and always had a story to share. He spent years working on family genealogy and could recall people, names, stories, and family connections better than anyone around. He lived humbly, courageously, respectful of all people, and with a deep sense of gratitude and compassion.
Byron is survived by his wife, Rosemary, his children Margaret Ann (Meg) Witmer-Faile (Tom Faile), Lora Witmer Willis, and Byron Witmer, Jr. (Liza Witmer); his grandchildren: Katherine Witmer, Luke Witmer (Katie), Shelby Witmer, Emma Witmer, Jessica Willis, Melissa Willis, Alex Gulledge (Emily), Doug Gulledge, Betsy Greener (Jason), John Faile (Katy), and great grandchildren: Hank and Wyatt Gulledge, Sarah Beth and Thomas Greener, Ryder and Knox Faile. Byron is also survived by his brother-in-law Charles Michie (Laura), and their children David Michie (Vanessa), Melissa Michie, as well as David and Vanessa’s children Aragorn, Drake, and Bronson, as well as his sister, Sue Renshaw’s children, Cathy Roberts, Karen Larue, Alan Renshaw, and Susan Renshaw.
He is predeceased by his parents, Hugh and Minnie Witmer, and his sister, Sue Renshaw.
Family and friends will gather for a celebration of Byron’s life at a future date.
In lieu of flowers, the family invites you to make a financial gift in his memory to the Chemistry Department at Texas A&M University for student scholarships.
Department of Chemistry-Student Scholarships
Texas A&M University
P.O. Box 30012
College Station, TX 77842-3012