In loving memory of Don Byker
At Brookwoods and Deer Run, we are blessed beyond measure to have such supportive and caring neighbors. Not everyone wants to live next to 300 campers: think cabin nights/noise, Changeover/unusual traffic for those that live around the corner from Camp on Damon Drive. You’ve probably seen the “Woodland Waters” sign many times, with the names of the families… that also call Chestnut Cove “Home.”
Of course, this camp story starts before Don and Wyn built their house on Damon Drive. Miles Strodel was serving as Gordon College’s Athletic Director and Wyn was Gordon’s Women’s Athletic Director and Women’s Basketball Coach. Miles, Brookwoods’ Director, had a particularly good sense for people and their talents; he invited Wyn to be the Brookwoods’ archery instructor. Her first summer was 1979. Even though Wyn was technically the one with the “summer camp job,” Don was her biggest supporter, helping set up and take down the range every summer, and everything in between. It was Don who insisted that Deer Run needed more shooting room and a much larger shed. He built that shed and would have cut down most of the trees if we had let him. Everyone that knew Wyn, knew Don, because they were a team, best friends, married for 58 ½ years. He loved her with all his heart and was by her side for everything.
Born in Iowa, raised in Michigan, Don became a New Englander, at the same time as having one foot (if not two) in the Philippines. With a lifelong passion for education, he taught at Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, MI and then as a professor at Calvin College and Harvard University (PhD from Univ. of Michigan). Most of us are more familiar with Don’s entrepreneurial side, first as a business consultant at Boston’s Bain & Company and then Don co-founded Affinity Industries in Ossipee, NH in 1990. Don “retired” in 2001 and co-founded Dignity Business Partners in 2010. Retire? Our guess is that he has never worked harder or tirelessly than with Dignity and the Community Transformation Plant (Cagmanaba, Oas, Albay Philippines) a missions-oriented business designed to create meaningful jobs and high-quality exportable products that can transform the lives of the people in the Philippines’ Bicol region.
Let’s get back to the neighbors. God calls us to LOVE our neighbor (Mark 12:31). Don modeled this kind of love, God’s love, daily, for all of us. He did this immeasurably. I’m thankful for the love he put into our Leadership Development Program campers, as they worked side by side on Habitat for Humanity projects in Carroll County, Camp’s neighboring county. Don practiced selfless, humble and effective service to the world’s poor and forgotten. His heart for the Philippines is so deep, you could not count the number of people that he touched there, from the Grace Christian Mission School down the road from the Dignity processing plant, to the GCM school in Boso Boso, outside of Manila. I can’t say it better than Don’s Dignity partner and friend Stephen Freed, “It would be difficult to overstate how fully he reflected the character of Jesus, and how deeply he loved and helped so very many of us. How profoundly he will be missed by so many.” And the same is true for our Camp family. Don showed us what it looks like when you share God’s love.
Don is survived by his wife Wyn, his children, and grandchildren: son and daughter-in-law, Patrick and Ingrid Byker and his son-in-law and daughter-in-law Guy and Patience Wood. His grandchildren, Thomas and Helen Wood, have all spent many summers at Camp Brookwoods and Deer Run. Wendy Byker Wood, Don and Wyn’s daughter born in 1960, has been in heaven since 1998.
A service to celebrate Don’s life will be held Saturday February 18th at 2:00 pm at First Christian Church of Ossipee, NH (50 Route 16B Center Ossipee).
In lieu of flowers, Don would wish for contributions to be made to the Scholarship Fund for Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run’s, and Moose River Outpost.
Donate to Scholarships Here.
I’m so very thankful to have had this neighbor, this friend, this mentor, and this brother in Christ. We will miss you.
If you want to send a note to Wyn, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a card:
159 Damon Drive
Alton, NH 03809