Mount Vernon It is with extreme sadness that I must share with you that my good friend and former Planning Commissioner John Byers passed away Sunday [July 29] at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. John's love for Mount Vernon was only surpassed by his love for his wife Peggy and his three children Susan, Leslie and Dan. Never before has one person given so much of his time, energy and intellect to improve his community, county, commonwealth and country. The depth of his devotion to public service is inestimable. The Byers family's loss of their patriarch, John, is a loss for the entire Mount Vernon Community.
At the time of his passing, John was serving on no less than six boards, authorities or committees for Fairfax County to include the Water Authority, Human Services Council, Economic Advisory Commission, Community Revitalization and Reinvestment Advisory Group, the Barbara Baron Volunteer Award Selection Committee, and the A. Heath Onthank Award Selection Committee.
John previously served as Mount Vernon's Planning Commissioner for 21 years, 10 of them as vice-chair of the Planning Commission. John also served on the PLUS Committee, the precursor to the Comprehensive Plan, and was chair of the Fairfax County Group Residential Facilities Commission. He served on every Area Plan Review Task Force for the Mount Vernon District and was chair of the Mount Vernon Visioning Task Force's Land Use Committee. John was a member of the Mount Vernon Council's Planning and Zoning Committee for over 35 years and was elected four times to serve as president of the Williamsburg Manor North Community Association. He was a charter member of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation and was the Mount Vernon Council's Citizen of the Year in 1994.
His vision and actions laid the framework for the revitalization and transformation of Richmond Highway from an automobile-oriented strip commercial area to a corridor comprised of community business centers filled with residential development between commercial nodes. Perhaps his greatest achievement is the development of Lorton and the Laurel Hill Parklands. His collaborative work with the Park Authority, Department of Planning and Zoning and Laurel Hill Task Force triggered the metamorphosis of a penitentiary into a thriving community of homes, schools, parks and a center for the arts.
John received his B.S. in military engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a M.B.A. from Central Michigan University. John retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army after 31 years of service during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit (four awards), the Soldiers Medal, the Bronze Star (two awards), the Air Medal (three awards), the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (three awards) and the Purple Heart. He also retired from his second career as manager of the Arlington Offices of Data-Design Laboratories and was owner and director of the Prince Royal Galleries in Old Town Alexandria.
A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 14 at 4:30 p.m. at Belvoir Chapel (5950 12th Street — across from Dewitt Hospital). He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
John dedicated his life to the service of others. Every person who lives in the Mount Vernon District has benefitted from his tireless work on our behalf.
My friend and colleague, John will be deeply missed.