She’s barley 5-feet tall, but family matriarch Almira Byrd has stood taller than her stature for nine decades, a monumental 90-years and on Sunday July 15, she was honored by her loving family at the Marriott Cleveland East in Warrensville Heights as their guiding symbol of spirit, courage and strength.
Family members came from near and far, Granddaughter Rebecca, who attended with her husband Mark from Oregon, said, “There is no way I would miss being here to tell you Happy Birthday and I love you!” Grandchildren Brian and Freddie Edwards came from California, along with nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends, who came via Texas, South Carolina, Indianapolis, Massachusetts, and as close as Columbus, OH.
Almira Byrd’s 90th birthday was such a celebration. Recognition truly earned and generously granted, from the purple, gold, and ivory decorations provided by Cloud Nine Event Planners, which added ambiance, and was indeed an elegant and classy affair. She is a woman of Faith that has served God with her mind and soul, and has lived his will for her life and follows his ways.
Byrd, wearing a royal purple dress gingerly made her way into the ballroom to the playing of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn't She Lovely’ with DJ’ James Toney on the turntables, as the hundred plus in attendance stood, clapped and joined in the chorus.
As she was escorted to her seat at the elevated table assembled just in her honor, she sat humbly as the celebration unfolded.
Her granddaughter, Danelle Edwards began the occasion as the mistress of ceremonies and joined later by her father and Byrd’s son Call & Post Executive Director, Minister Dale Edwards who garrulous assignment as master of ceremonies recalled the discipline’s from both his mother and grandmother that enabled him to become a Cleveland Police Officer and subsequent Sergeant.
Danelle hailed her grandmother as a Virtuous Woman barrowing a scripture from Proverbs 31. She emphasized that often women of her time believe that Proverbs 31 does not apply to their modern and busy lives, as a young mother herself she feels that the 10 Virtues of Proverbs 31 is demonstrated by her grandmother, is an example for all women today and we can all be Proverbs 31 Women.
It was an evening that captured the essence of the woman, the mother, grandmother, and great grandmother and included her brother Nathaniel and wife Norma Chaney, her sister Evelyn Chaney, longtime friends Beatrice Brown, Donna Brown, Fannie Lynch, Beatrice Flagg, and many who were not blood related. She was a surrogate grandmother, mother or mentor to many.
Pastor Christine Smith, remembered Byrd as a loyal member and minister of music of her church and says she played the Hammond Organ as if she was in a gospel concert, even during lean times when she was one of the few members of the church.
Her daughter Yvonne Edwards-Fernandez praised her of her tender and sturdy hand in raising seven children, admitting that Dale was the spoiled and chosen one, to laughter and applause.
Granddaughter Shyvonne Johnson and great granddaughter Rylynn Caldwell led a gospel chorus with Genesis II and members from the audience were summoned to join in.
Grandson Gabe Edwards sang a personal tribute to Byrd and there were testimonials from the prominent pastor and musician, Bishop Gonelcha Askew who credited Byrd with teaching him how the play the Hammond Organ. Granddaughter Shaundra Daniels who said, “I love Grandma and that she has a lot of wisdom, history and that I learned so much from her about the family.”
Noted Bishop Eugene Ward Jr. left his church anniversary to make sure that he could personally deliver a tribute to Byrd, calling her his mother as well thanking her for the advice growing up and the rearing of Dale.
New Birth Christian Fellowship Ministries, Pastor A.F. Craver rushed over after finishing his church service to offer his continued blessing for her presence.
There was a long distance salute from Call & Post Publisher, and the icon Don King who said to Byrd from South Florida on the phone:
“Happy Birthday Almira on the big Nine O. Congratulations and I wish you many more.”
Cleveland gospel star Sister Janet Lynn Skinner perhaps summed the evening up best, after devouring steak, chicken, mashed potatoes, a medley of vegetables, fruit, dinner rolls and the sweetest of tea.
Skinner bellowed Amazing Grace. Truly it is God’s amazing grace that allows us to sum up an elegant evening for a Virtuous Woman, who loves to cook, has worked with her son and whose spirit could be found from the eldest of family members to her young great grandson Maverick.
Almira Byrd celebrated 90 years of living and was able to taste the sweet cake, hear the glorious tributes, and enjoy the live music provided by Jermaine Jackson, Alex Jackson, Rico James, and Larry Owens. Almira, was seated on a golden throne as glasses were raised, to toast a full and wonderful life.
“Well, I guess I’ll just keep on going,” Byrd quietly said. She could not believe that all of this was for her. This dotting family would not have it any other way. How else could they sail without Almira Byrd beneath their wings? She is their HERO!
Dale Edwards (Son) & Danelle Edwards (Granddaughter) contributed to the story.
Video Photography by Louis Burrell