BYRGE, NEAL BURNARD, Senior Master Sergeant United States Air Force Retired, departed for the "Wild Blue Yonder" 14 Mar 2011. Coal miner, Soldier, Airman, and author of the published Byrge family genealogy, Neal was born 14 Aug 1922 in Kettle Island, Bell County, Kentucky to the late Jasper Porter Byrge (1899-1935), a native of Scott County, Tennessee, and Dona Elsie Ferguson (1899-1952), a native of Claiborne County, Tennessee. Preceded in death by Mona Geraldine Walters Byrge, wife of 63 years; sisters Mary Helen (1928-1936), Lois Hope (m. Foster Minton) (1920-2005), Francis Imogene (m. Walter Graham and Hatler Cook) (1924-2003); sons Infant (b/d 1952), Thomas Porter (1945-2003), David O'Neal (1947-2005); grandsons Kyle Burnard (b/d 1972) and Timothy Gordon Fischer (1969-2003); and great-grandson Kember McCray Peele (b/d 2010). Survived by daughters Mona Marlene (m. Phillip Angelo); Lucy L'Dona Byrge (m. Jerry Tackett); ten grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren; sister Mildred Juanita Farmer (m.Lee Roy Farmer); and brother-inlaw Hatler Cook .
On 17 Jan 1944, Neal married Mona Geraldine ("Jerry") Walters of Middlesboro, Bell County, Kentucky, daughter of William Thomas Walters (1874-1940) and Lucy Andrew (1884-1979), both natives of Whitley County, Kentucky. Jerry was born 24 May 1924 in Spencer, McLean County, South Dakota and died 26 July 2007, in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida.
At age 15, Neal skipped school to become a coal miner but, with all due respect to coal miners, later decided it just wasn't for him. On 20 Sep 1940, at age 18, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. A veteran of the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations during World War II, Sergeant Byrge served with the 63d Army Airways Communications Service, part of the 14th Air Force "Flying Tigers." Subsequent tours included 18 months in Alaska (1948-1949), and service during the Korean Conflict with the "Mosquitoes" of the 6147th Tactical Control Group, part of the 5th Air Force. Neal also served three years on the Island of Bermuda (1963-1966), often joking that it "was one tough tour, but someone had to take it." Senior Master Sergeant Byrge retired from the United States Air Force on 1 Aug 1968, and continued working with the Hillsborough County Automobile Inspection Department and Board of Public Instruction until 1 Jan 1983.
Known as "Pop" to some and "Gramps" to most, Neal never met a stranger. Everyone was an opportunity for conversation, and it usually involved genealogy or Florida State University football – he was their biggest fan. A Kentucky hillbilly with a big heart, Neal wanted more than anything to simply be remembered. He got his wish - in so many ways, Neal will forever be a part of us. He forever will be loved and missed by all who knew him.
The family will receive friends at 9:00 am Thursday, 17 Mar, at Marsicano-B. Marion Reed-Stowers Funeral Home, 4040 Henderson Blvd in Tampa, Florida. Funeral services will follow at 10:00 am in the funeral home chapel with Pastor John Meisenbach officiating. Graveside services and burial will be held at approximately 12:30 pm at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the Air Force Aid Society at (800) 769-8951 or www.afas.org.