RobertByers

picCirca 2004 “We Cannot Direct the Wind, But We Can Adjust the Sail”

1941-12-11 December 11/1941 - June 08/2007

Robert was a successful and well-known business operator in Halifax, of the Phase Two Salon in the Hotel Nova Scotian.

Safe Harbour

Robert was one of the four founders of SafeHarbourChurch and was also the creator of the Safe Harbour Banner that has hung in our worship space and traveled in the PRIDE Parade for many many years. In addition Robert was also the first person to bring Safe Harbour onto the world wide web over 12 years ago and he was the one who taught the minister most of what she knows about computers and editing software that is used for church bulletins, and reports. He shared much of himself with our community and we would not have a Safe Harbour without his commitment to make sure those who wanted to worship had a place they could call their own.

Other Major Works

Photography
Robert was an avid photographer, he loved his digital camera and was kept alive by his love of it. Some of his photos can be seen at this link: http://picasaweb.google.com/robert.byers
The Left Atrium
A medical story that Robert was a big part of http://www.ecmaj.ca/cgi/reprint/174/10/1453
GAE
HistoryProjectTodoList: information on Robert's work with GaeGala - when and what.

Remembering Robert

picRobert Byers & Reg Giles ( Summer 2004 )

RegGiles writes: Robert Byers passed away June 8, 2007 due to complications with cancer. According to a friend, he went peacefully.

I hadn't been talking to him for a while and was going to see him in the hospital along with several other people tommorow but we were just one day too late. He was a good friend and also a constant pain in the butt ( no gay pun intended ) and I will miss him dearly. Rest well Robert ... Give Them Hell In Heaven !!!

Robert was a long term resident of Halifax, and even after retirement, still enjoyed his strolls throughout the city.


JohnMarr writes: Robert was a Master Hairstylist and operated a salon that was, I believe, called "Phase Two", or "The Crystal Room" in the Nova Scotian Hotel (now Westin Nova Scotia Hotel). He was committed to the GAE.

Before he died, Robert wrote back: Thank you John, for remembering. The most important pride we must celebrate, is honouring ourselves. Wots of Wuv.


picRobert & DarleneYoung ca. 2004. Photo from RegGiles

DarleneYoung of SafeHarbourChurch writes:

Robert was my best friend for many years and he came into my life through his support for Safe Harbour Church. He was one of the original four people who founded the church, and though he always claimed to be agnostic, he worked very hard to make sure that there would be a church for the rainbow community. I always teased him about being an agnostic because he was such a deeply spiritual person. He leaves a wonderful legacy of faith at Safe Harbour.

Another memory I have of him was his passion to support the womens community. Back in the late 80's he once threw a dinner party for about eight women of importance in his life. It was a gathering to honour International Women's Day. He brought together an ecclectic group of women who were waited on hand and foot by him and treated to an unforgetable evening of delightful gourmet food and gracious hospitality.

The other thing I remember with fondness was his flamboyance - he loved to camp it up and have fun with his sexuality. I remember one story he told of a time he was riding the bus and was accosted by a homophobe who called him a ferry... mustering up his butchest voice his quickly replied, "excuse me but that's cock sucker to you." (He always had the ability to laugh at himself)

His interests were so varied but it was his passion for people and his love for his family, friends and community that I will remember and miss the most. Good Night Sweet Prince-See you in the morning.


Brenda Hattie, Mount St. Vincent University, writes:

Rob Byers and I have a very interesting connection. His father, J.W. Byers, taught my Dad, Jack Hattie, in a little schoolhouse in Caledonia, Guysborough County, in the late 1920s, early 1930s. Mr. Byers had written a little historical piece about the Hattie Brothers Lumbering Company, owned by my great uncles, and had donated this to the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. Our family had no knowledge of this little book until I stumbled upon one day at the Archives while looking for something else. In the booklet were a number of pictures of the lumbering operation, including pictures of my great uncles and my Dad, at this point a boy of about 7 years old, standing on a log in the St. Mary's River with a pike pole in his hand.

I wanted to know more about Mr. Byers, as it struck me that he was a very interesting teacher to have taken the time to write this little history. So I quizzed my Dad, and also found out that J.W. had a son, Rob. I found Rob's contact info and called him one day and asked if we could get together to talk about his father's work as a teacher, and to show Rob the booklet his father had written about Hattie Bros. We met over coffee and shared stories, he about his father, and me about mine. Rob was very proud of his Dad, painting a picture of a very quiet, sensitive man, a man he loved and missed very much.

My father has since passed away, but I am grateful to both Rob and his father for providing a more detailed picture of our roots and of life in the little village of Caledonia, Guysborough County in the early 1900s. The book is now a cherished piece of our family history.


Lea Roy writes:

I knew Robert for many years. He was one of the first gay men I met when I first went to Halifax to live. One of the first things that came to my mind was the time the tall ships first came to Halifax. He did a hairstyle on a woman with very long hair. When he was done her hair was in the shape of the Bluenose II. It was so hot and humid that day he used every can of hairspray in the place and with help from from a few friends she was loaded into the car sideways and off to the water front for the show. It was awesome and truly the work of an artist which he was.

I also remember him to be kind, generous, and even a best friend when you needed one. He never turned his back on anyone even his exes. I saw him shortly after his mother died and he had had heart surgery, and asked him how he was, and his response was a smile, a big hug and telling us all the postive things going on in his life at the time. I am sure there are a few in the community who can attest to the fact that no matter how bad your day was you could not help but be uplifted and in better spirits after talking to Robert. And no matter what was going on in his life, he always made the time to listen and to talk. He will be sadly missed.


LarryBaxter writes:

I first met Robert on July 3rd, 1982, two days after he had given up alcohol. He was as proud of this accomplishment that day as he was on every other day we chatted. And that was his approach to life, taking each day at a time and celebrating each success along the way. We crossed paths off and on over the years, but each time he was the same Robert, just as happy, friendly and solid as the first day I met him.

It has only been in the last 2 years that Robert and I have become reacquainted and shared some common moments together. As volunteer patients for the Dalhousie Medical School, we would often meet in the waiting room and catch up on the news. He was very proud of his contribution to the education of the young medical students as evidenced by his last wishes and his comments in an article on himself in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/reprint/174/10/1453.pdf)

We also shared a common journey with HIV and he willingly participated in several meetings and PHA sessions with the NovaScotiaAdvisoryCommissionOnAIDS. He was instrumental in giving the PHA perspective in a pilot workshop on HIV & Rehabilitation held in Halifax by the Canadian Working Group on HIV & Rehabilitation in the fall of 2006. His personal journey with the health care system was one of the focal points of the workshop but in true Robert modesty, said “I left the workshop with the most precious gift of all, the gift of self-knowledge”. This newsletter article gives more of his comments and thoughts. (See page 8 in http://www.hivandrehab.ca/EN/about_us/documents/newsletter_vol5-2.pdf)

Even on the day when he had to go to the Emergency Department and miss a focus group that evening, he made sure I knew he had to cancel but wished he could still have attended. A week later on April 26th he got a day pass from the hospital so he could attend the last volunteer patient session of the year. That was the last time I saw Robert but he was so pleased that he could finish off the year with the med students. He knew then that this was probably his last time with them. Even when we chatted by phone the week before he died, Robert was making sure loose ends were tidied up and that whatever he could do to help others would be done. That was Robert, as kind hearted and giving as one could ever want in a friend and colleague. We will all truly miss him.


ChrisAucoin writes:

I'm really really sorry to hear the news. I lost track of Robert quite some time ago as our lives veered off onto different paths after our GALA NS involvements and of the various core GALA people I had a lot of dealing with he is perhaps the one I most regretted not keeping in touch with.

I first met Robert Byers when I was hired as the GALA Program Coordinator in February of 1990. Robert was still on the Board of Directors at that time (president I think) and I had a lot of day-to-day dealing with him in that capacity. His commitment went far beyond just his formal board duties as he put a lot of hours and energy into navigating the organization through some very challenging times.

Despite his obvious commitment to GALA the thing I most remember about Robert was his desire to "one day..." perform (live singing but in drag) the song The Man in the Moon from the musical Mame. I always kind of hoped that at some point I'd organize a community variety show of live entertainment and give Robert his chance...


MikeGiffin? writes:

I had learned a few weeks ago that Robert was very ill. My knowledge of Robert was almost exclusively through the internet when I found out that he was the "owner" of an amazing web site dedicated to the beauty of the black male. We both thought we had a vague memory of meeting many years previously when I lived on the Triangle, but now I am not so sure. Rob and I were trying to get reacquainted. Sadly, we did not get together before he passed away.

This is what we've been told about the website Mike mentions, and we would love to have more information, corrections or confirmation.

The website ran under the name Luvr of Ebony in 1997 and Rob's name was BlkLuvr. It was dedicated to the enjoyment and admiration of the black male physique in photographic form. It became so popular that Aliant wanted to charge Robert commercial rates since he was getting over 10,000 hits per month, and so eventually he had to close it down. He did, however, keep his huge collection of images. (Anyone know what happened to them?)

Most of all Robert loved the contact with people all over the world, He remembered very fondly a gay black couple from Africa who had lost an adopted son to AIDS and the wonderful letters they sent.

As Robert said: "There are so many stories to be told some day. Maybe history will be kind."


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