William A. Byers
Bill Byers was still hunting into his 90s and got this more-than-25-pound wild turkey at the age of 92. (Submitted photo / June 8, 2013)
He taught 42 years for the county school system, the last 29 as a driver’s education teacher at Williamsport High School, where he taught countless teenagers to drive.
Bill knew a lot about what was going on in the community from the back-seat conversations of students awaiting their turn at the wheel, said his wife of 68 years, Ruby.
“My dad, he knew everything going on in the high school,” said son Joseph “Joe” Byers of Hagerstown.
His student drivers also got lessons about nature as they drove around the county, with Bill sharing his passion along the way.
“He loved feeding the birds and deer in the backyard,” Ruby said.
Joe’s daughter and his oldest grandchild, Alex Willems of Boise, Idaho, grew up not far from her grandparents’ farm.
“I was always here” at the farm, Alex said. “Pop was just all about being outside. He’d identify leaves on trees, birds, flowers, cows.”
At one time, Bill had more than 30 ponies, and would host races at a racetrack they had on their property.
Joe said the farm was run as a co-operative with four or five other farmers on the same road. Bill had a combine, one farmer had a hay baler and one had a corn chopper.
“You just worked to help each other,” Joe said. “My father had cattle here until he was 85. Until after he turned 90, he was on a tractor.”
During his teaching career, Bill also taught eighth-grade math and science, high school business math, world history and bookkeeping.
Bill’s workdays began long before the bell rang, with him rising early to take care of the animals on the family farm, then continuing the chores after he got home from school.
Joe said as a child, he helped on the farm.
“He worked all the time, taught school, fed cattle before class, came home and was on the tractor,” Joe said. “I didn’t play sports because we worked.”
It wasn’t until he was an adult that he and his father, both working as teachers, would schedule annual hunting trips during fall school break.
Those trips started in the 1970s and continued for more than 25 years.
“We weren’t back a week and we were already talking about next year,” Joe said. “In many ways, my father was my best friend.”
Bill also had a large garden and generously shared his bounty.