Monday, February 2, 2004

Nursing home owner Al Byars gave generously to church



By: Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

About 15 years ago, Al Byars made a decision that changed his life. A former reverend, he was a successful nursing home owner when a friend urged him renew his interest in the church.

He did. And his dedication resurfaced.

For the rest of his life, he donated large amounts of money to help build churches in Pakistan, Africa, India and Cambodia.

He donated a sports field to Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary in honor of his late wife, Jean Byars. And he supported 12 men and nine women who were students in the ministry.

Al Byars died Jan. 25 at Jewish Hospital of a combination of chronic illnesses. The East Walnut Hills resident was 79.

"He never shied away from hard work," said his daughter, Karen Byars of Aberdeen, Ohio. "He was very generous, I think because when he started off, he was penniless. He was a sharecropper and he took sweet potatoes to school every day."

Born and raised in Mississippi, Mr. Byars served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and completed 74 combat missions in Europe.

Honorably discharged in 1945, he began studies at Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary.

He was ordained a minister in the Church of Christ in 1947, and graduated from the Bible college in 1950.

Soon after, Mr. Byars divorced his first wife, Barbara, and decided to leave the ministry.

He sold cars and life insurance until 1963, when he offered to help an acquaintance's fledging Walnut Hills nursing home.

Successful at reestablishing the home, Mr. Byars decided to open his own.

He and his wife Jean began Red Haven Nursing Home, Inc. (now the Jean Byars Nursing Home), in North Avondale, in 1966; West Hills Nursing Home Inc. in 1968; and Windsor Park Nursing Home, Inc. in 1969.

His daughter, Karen Byars, said that, "his most recent commitment was to pay for the baptistery in the new worship center at the Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary."

"It's where his (funeral) service was held. It's not complete yet, but somehow I don't think he would have minded that."

He was a member of Rising Sun Church of Christ in Rising Sun, Ind.

His wife, Jean Byars, died in 1995.

Besides his daughter Karen, survivors include three other daughters, Janice Didusch of Finneytown, Linda Jarrett of Cheviot and Billie May of Mesa, Ariz.; a son, Kenneth Byars of Florence, Ind.; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services were held.

Burial was in Spring Grove Cemetery.

Memorials: Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary, PO Box 04320, 2700 Glenway Ave., Cincinnati, 45204-3200.

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E-mail nhamilton@enquirer.com




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