“Travis and Anna Byrom,” says Truett, their younger son, “were not the same, not even similar. They were flat-out different from each other. But they loved and cared and kept faith with each other and endured. They lived lives of meaning and beauty and purpose.” (Truett lives with his family in Colorado where he is VP of Business Development at a biotechnology company.) The Byrom’s older son, Clay, says of his parents, “A good parent is one of God’s best gifts to a kid.” With heartfelt remembrances, Clay shares that before he met other people in the Air Force, he thought his life was like everyone else’s. But, it wasn’t long before he realized that that was not the case. “Having a mom and dad there who loved us and took care of us was more precious than I realized. Discovering that many people didn’t have a dad or hated their dad was a revelation.” (Clay, who explains that he chose to remain in the cockpit over advancement, retired as a Major in the air force with over 20 years spent as an F-16 fighter pilot. Today, he lives in Arizona with his family and is currently an F-35 Contract Instructor Pilot. His team is responsible for teaching all classroom and full-mission simulator training lessons to F-35A fighter pilots. Clay oversees and directs all training for both students and instructors.)
Anna Vermillion Byrom graduated from Karnes City High School in 1956 where she was a twirler, participated in a beauty pageant, and played the piano, the flute, and the clarinet. Anna was one of several children. Today, John, her older brother, lives in Victoria with his wife; Michael Vermillion lives in W. VA; Mary Ruth Vermillion lives in Seattle; Wayne lives in Texas. Recalling their closeness as young people, John shares that Anna was a big support to him when he was in the Air Force in Germany and when he brought home his German war bride, Freda.
Upon graduation from high school, Anna chose to join the Air Force because her parents couldn’t afford to send both her and her older brother, John, to college. For her four-year stint, she was stationed in Barksdale AFB, LA, where she did clerical work keeping records on the planes. Upon leaving the service, Anna moved to San Antonio where she met Travis Byrom.
Reportedly, Anna was living in an apartment when one of her roommates had a date with Travis, and when he came to pick up his date, she wasn’t there. Anna, then, agreed to go out with Travis, and that began the romance. (According to Norma, Travis’ sister, “Travis was quite a lady’s man while in college!”)
Travis Byrom, the oldest of five, graduated from Poteet. Norma Byrom Blalock was next; then Nella; then a boy and girl twins, Marion and Marilyn. Today, Norma is the only surviving sibling. While in high school, Travis played sports and participated in the FFA. He is said to have been small in his youth, and, upon seeing him as an adult, his high school coach told him he wished he had been that big as a boy!
Travis went to A&M for one year, but, according to Norma, “Travis didn’t care for the corps in a time when it was mandatory.” Clay states emphatically that, even though he did his time in the Texas National Guard, Travis had no use for the military life! So, Travis dropped out for a year and tried his hand farming and ranching. That was long enough for him to decide to go back to college, and he subsequently graduated from SWT in San Marcos where he was active in the rodeo club and majored in agriculture.
Travis began his career as an ag teacher in Floresville. From there he went to Leakey. There, he became lifelong friends with Tela and Jack Patterson, whose son Travis taught. Clay says that this couple were like second grandparents to the boys. After Travis and Anna married, Travis took an ag job in Pearsall, and while living there, Clay was born. Travis’ next position was in Natalia; and finally, Devine, replacing Mr. Moss in 1982 upon his retirement.
Alongside his role as an ag teacher, Travis also ran his family-owned ranch, located between Kyote and Charlotte. Here, Travis farmed peanuts and ranched, but ultimately he maintained a cow-calf operation. Today, the boys have leased it out for cattle grazing. This is where Clay holds some of his fondest memories of his dad. One of those memories was of his dad’s being able to speak Spanish, and if he saw workers passing through the property, he would hire them if they had a green card, and if they didn’t, he would feed them and allow them to spend the night at the shed on the property.
Clay shares that he and his brother always went to the ranch to work after school and on weekends. His dad taught them how to work hard, and, even though it was hot and they’d rather have been somewhere else playing at the time, Clay cherishes those times – especially in retrospect. He recalls his dad getting him and Truett up early to go hunting – quail, dove, and deer. And his dad was always with them. Then there were the FFA trips taken with their dad – camps every summer, often to the Texas Hill Country, and especially to the Frio and Llano Rivers. Of course when in Leakey, they spent time with those family friends, the Pattersons.
Travis also was good to other kids in the community, kids who were struggling. He would go to businesses in town to get scholarships for boys and girls who needed animals for projects. And then he would solicit business owners to attend the county shows to purchase these kids’ animals. Clay recalls asking his dad once why he went to all that trouble, and Travis’ response was, “God doesn’t give us things just to have but to help others.” He adds that his dad was kind and giving and wouldn’t put up with the boys being unkind to people. And on that note, Travis enjoyed teaching Sunday School to the men’s class at FBC, alternating with Roy Irwin.
Clay proudly recalls that many folks continued to call his dad “Mr. Byrom,” even some of his own age – a sign of respect. Upon Travis’ passing, many businessmen who had worked with Travis wrote letters expressing how he had helped them and what an honest man he was. A cousin, Craig Byrom, adds that his Uncle Travis and Anna were great influences on him and his siblings, both as family and as a teacher. “They were good mentors and loving disciplinarians.”
Anna, known by everyone as being gracious and dignified, worked for several years for Ferrell Gas, scheduling deliveries and working their books. She also taught Sunday School and substitute taught at the high school. She was very close friends with Carol Crouch, who sat at the organ at one side of the church while Anna sat at the piano on the other side. Anna was involved with Devine’s Current Events Club, helping put together their activities and events. Clay proudly recalls that how she presented herself was important, and she always admonished the boys, “Don’t forget Whose you are,” believing that it is important that people knew they belonged to Christ, and that it should be evident in everything they did. “She was a lady in every sense of the word.”
Truett likes to reflect on how different his mother and dad were. “Travis and Anna wouldn’t immediately be seen as a good fit. He was cattle and ranching, FFA meetings, coffee in thermoses. The Farm Report playing on WOAI, and a package of Red Man on the pickup truck dashboard. [A vintage pickup truck!] A man that never seemed to forgive Tom Landry for the Cowboy’s Prevent Defense. Anna was none of that. She was all about pianos – pianos and lots of hair styling appointments, and a deep love for her friends.” Truett adds that while his dad might snooze through an Astros’ game, his mom was constant motion – no relaxation.
Painting a striking picture of his mother’s love of piano, Truett says, “The beauty she shared in her decades of church performances [some 35 years!] was but a shadow of the continual concerto in her home,” and he adds, “I would wipe manure off my boots as I entered my mother’s auditorium.” And Truett, as well as Clay and Norma, well recall the years Anna devoted to accompanying junior high and high school band students: “…the sounds of a clarinet being tortured were magically softened by the piano’s grace.”
Travis and Anna were both deeply committed to Christ, and chiefly and foremost to them was for the boys to come to know Christ and to follow Him. And Clay adds that they were just as amazing grandparents. Truett reflects, “Travis and Anna Byrom had a home made by a hard, kind man raised in the severe conditions of a depression era cattle ranch and a gentle lady of music and compassion.”