LUMBERTON — Local lawmen, residents and children filed into the Lumberton High School gymnasium Friday to mourn the loss of a beloved retired police officer.
Shawn Byrd, a 16-year veteran of the Lumberton Police Department, lost his battle with kidney disease on Tuesday.
A mixture of weeping and laughter could be heard sporadically during the viewing as people reminisced about the last time they were with Byrd.
Byrd, 45, was an asset to the police department and a pillar to the community in Robeson and surrounding counties, and across the state, Police Chief Mike McNeill said.
“He played the guitar with the DARE band and traveled all over the state. He devoted his time to helping others, especially kids and elderly people,” McNeill said.
A trait Debra Byrd knows well.
“My son was fun-loving and kind. He would do anything for anybody,” she said. “I will miss him.”
First Orrum Missionary Baptist Church is where 14-year-old Makenzie Mitchell met Byrd. She’s known Byrd her whole life and enjoyed listening to him play guitar.
“He played the guitar real good,” she said. “He always had people laughing.”
At about the age of 7 Mitchell had the desire to sing in her church choir but could not overcome her shyness. Four years later, with Byrd’s encouragement, she mustered up the courage to fulfill her desire to sing for her fellow parishioners.
“I was always scared about singing in the choir. He encouraged me to face my fears,” Mitchell said. “I am not scared anymore. I will miss his inspiration.”
Hattie Lewis and Tina Dial, administrative assistants at the police department, said Byrd was a positive person who could uplift anyone with just his presence.
“He was easygoing and humble, and got along with everybody,” Lewis said. “If you were down he would lift you up, even if you were having a bad day.”
Byrd camouflaged his illness with his laughter and playful nature, Dial said.
“Even though he had a sickness, he remained positive, despite what he was going through,” she said.
Byrd learned he contracted a kidney disease when getting blood work done three weeks before a scheduled gastric bypass surgery nearly seven years ago. The disease causes scar tissue to build up in a person’s kidneys and can lead to kidney failure.
Byrd declined to have a blood transfusion and was hesitant to undergo dialysis because of possible complications. With his kidneys working at about 4 percent capacity, Byrd was placed on a kidney transplant waiting list and would undergo dialysis at home while waiting for the lifesaving organ he never received.
“That dialysis is not easy. My mom-ma dealt with that. It’s rough,” McNeill said. “He never complained, he wore his badge with pride.”
Byrd managed to maintain a grueling 60-to-70-hour work week that included his police work and a private security job.
Byrd retired June 1, 2016, from the Lumberton Police Department. He had worked as a school resource officer at Carroll Middle School and Lumberton Junior High School for several years and filled in occasionally at Lumberton Senior High. He also was a juvenile detective at one point in his career.
Adrian Davis, 45, a longtime family friend of Byrd, said children received him well because he exuded a youthful spirit.
“He was a big kid at heart, and stressed the importance of an education,” she said. “He will be missed immensely.”
Byrd gave more then he received, McNeill said. He did everything he could to make life better for others.
“Byrd was a jokester,” he said. “There was never a dull moment.”
And according to Davis, there will not be a dull moment in heaven, where she said he is right now.
“I know he is up there cutting up, with his big jovial self,” she said.
Byrd’s funeral service is 3 p.m. today at Lumberton High School, with burial afterward at Campbell Cemetery in Proctorville.
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.