Claudia Byrd was born Claudia Melville on June 19,1922 on a tobacco farm in Onslow County, NC. She attended Nursing school in Fayetteville, NC where she met John Byrd, a soldier from Erie, PA stationed at Ft. Bragg, Pope Airfield. He was shipped to Africa to build airports in 1941. After an explosion of a crashed airplane, and after 6 months hospitalized from the burns, he was suddenly redrafted into the army. She took a train to Erie; they were married and he was sent to Europe. Claudia then worked at a Polio camp in NC taking care of patients in iron lungs. IN 1945 they moved to NE where they raised Claudia Jeanne and John, Jr. In 1953 she became the Community Nurse of NE. It took them 2 years to be certified for Medicare. During her 35 years as the Community Nurse, they were successful in many projects: meals on wheels, Christmas baskets, Toys for Tots, Redcross wagon for transportation for special needs children to a special school in Erie, and established the AARP chapter in NE. In 1988 she retired and went to work part-time at the Presbyterian Lodge in Erie. It turned out to be almost full time until she left just before her 80th birthday. (She joked that the job was interfering with her bridge games.) During the years that followed, she was involved with many volunteer programs: Hotline of Erie, AARP MAP which gave Medicare/Medicaid assistance. After the federal government saw how successful it was, they funded it. Now every state has a program like it.
She eventually moved to Chapel Hill, NC, to be near her daughter Jeanne, her grandaughter Hallee Jeanne and her grandkids Deshawn and Shyann. She signed up as a volunteer at the UNC Hospital in the neonatal unit as a "cuddler" rocking newborn babies. She found places to play bridge and made many new friends. Sadly, she gradually went blind from macular degeneration, but continued living in her apartment with her 16 year old Himalayan cat. She enjoyed audiobooks and Tarheel basketball games narrated by her good friend. She lived without ever complaining and was humble to a fault. All who knew her wanted to be like her. She passed away March 14, 2020.After donating her body to the UNC School of Medicine for one year, she was cremated, and her ashes will be buried with her husband and son in North East Cemetery, North East, PA.
Family and friends are invited to attend a Memorial Time of Sharing and Remembrance Service at North East Cemetery, Section S, on Saturday September 10, 2022, at 11 A.M
Local funeral arrangements are under the care of the W. Tad Bowers Funeral Home, 92 S. Lake St., North East, PA. To send condolences, please visit www.bowersfuneralhome.com.
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