Former Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr., who died in July at age 98, left $10,000 to each full-time employee who has worked more than 10 years at his family’s Virginia newspapers. Byrd started working at the Winchester Star in 1935 and served on its board until his death, His son, Thomas T. Byrd, is currently publisher. The Byrd family bought the paper in 1897, a year after it was founded.
Byrd’s $760,000 will go to 41 staffers at the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record; 31 at the Winchester Star; three at the Elkton Banner; and one at the Warren Sentinel.
Byrd also gave money to the John Handley Regional Library ($250,000); Salvation Army ($100,000); University of Virginia Manuscripts Library ($100,000); Christ Episcopal Church of Winchester ($100,000); Virginia Historical Society ($100,000); Henry and William Evans Home ($50,000); Winchester-Frederick Historical Society ($50,000); and The Masonic Home ($50,000).
UPDATE: The staffers received their checks Monday morning.
Winchester Star web editor Bobby Ford sends this report:
Sen. Byrd’s three children, sons Thomas, our publisher, and Harry III and daughter Beverley, presented an envelope this morning to each staff member with at least 10 years of service during a ceremony at the paper.
A similar ceremony will take place this afternoon at our sister paper, the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record.
(I’m told there is a check and a letter in the envelope, but I can’t bring myself to open the envelope because I can’t wrap my arms the whole thing.) They also presented a copy of his two books, “Defying the Odds” and “Double Trouble.”
It was an emotional ceremony as the publisher called each name and gave the number of years of service of the 30 employees who were in attendance. Connie Spaid in production/composing is the longest-serving member of The Winchester Star staff at 45 years. (It’s my understanding that an employee in Harrisonburg has 47 years of service.)
Even though we’ve known about this since Friday afternoon, we are all still stunned this morning.
He has shown tremendous generosity throughout the community and continues to do so in his will. But to think of his staff in this way showed his thoughtfulness and how important loyalty was to him. It’s a gift of unbelievable kindness from a special man.