Margaret Janice Priester Byrne

Published 7:44 am Friday, June 17, 2022

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Oct. 17, 1937 – April 29, 2022

NATCHEZ – A burial service for Margaret Janice “Jan” Priester Byrne, 84, of Natchez, who died April 29, 2022, in Natchez will be held at 1 p.m., Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at Natchez City Cemetery with the Rev. David O’Connor officiating.

Visitation will be Tuesday, June 21, 2022, from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Laird Funeral Home.

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Mrs. Byrne was born in Natchez on Oct. 17, 1937, the only daughter of William R. “Billy” Priester, Jr., and Elizabeth Carolyne Hitt Priester.

She graduated as valedictorian of Natchez High School in 1955, where she was elected Miss Natchez High School and served as Rebelette majorette, Natchez High Band majorette, class secretary and editor-in-chief of the yearbook, Colonel Reb.

As a four-year Sugar Bowl Scholar and honor roll student at the University of Mississippi, she received a bachelor of arts degree with top honors in mathematics in 1959. At Ole Miss, she was secretary of the academic honor society Mortar Board; president of Kappa Delta sorority; secretary of the Pan-Hellenic board; secretary of the Campus Senate; Homecoming maid and a Rebelette in the Ole Miss Band.

In 1957, she was selected Miss Hospitality for Natchez and was first runner-up for Mississippi’s Miss Hospitality.

She later earned a master of education degree from Mississippi College, Clinton and 45 additional graduate hours in mathematics and other fields of study at Ohio State University, Alcorn State University, University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi University for Women.

She taught mathematics in the Jackson, Miss., public school system prior to marrying Paul Henry Byrne, Jr., of Natchez in 1963 and returning to Natchez, where she lived for the remainder of her life.

She taught mathematics in the Natchez-Adams School System at Trinity Episcopal School, at Adams County Christian School and for more than 20 years, at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Natchez Campus. She was also Lab Manager of the Student Support Services Learning Resource Center and mathematics tutor at Co-Lin until retiring in 2019.

Throughout her career, she won honors and awards for exemplary work, including membership in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, a Teaching Excellence Award at the National Institute for Supervision and Organization Development at the University of Texas, Teacher of the Year award from Natchez Chamber of Commerce and numerous grants and scholarships for graduate study.

In addition to her career, Mrs. Byrne was active in the Natchez community as a member of St. Mary Cathedral (now Basilica); president of the Natchez Junior Auxiliary; a registered tour guide; vice-chairman of the City Beautification Committee; a certified flower show judge with a specialty in horticulture; chairman of two national award-winning flower shows for Pilgrimage Garden Club; co-chairman of the PGC Antiques Forum; member of the PGC Pageant Committee; board member of Garden Clubs of Mississippi, Inc.; member of The Garden Club of America; assistant for Co-Lin’s Elderhostel/Road Scholar program; committee chairman for the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration; a supporter of the Natchez Humane Society; and a member of Natchez Little Theatre.

She loved reading and discussing books, the Ole Miss Rebels, traveling, playing and teaching mahjong, raising violets, and enjoying family and friends.

Mrs. Byrne was preceded in death by her husband of 56 years, Paul Byrne; her parents, Billy and Carolyne Priester and her brother, Robert Ishmael “Bob” Priester.

She is survived by her daughter, Susannah Byrne Heatherly and son-in-law, Wade Heatherly; her son, Robert Priester Byrne and daughter-in-law, Jessica Byrne; her grandchildren, Paul Wesley Heatherly, Elizabeth Carolyne Heatherly, Joseph Byrne Heatherly and Elizabeth “Liza” Layne Byrne, all of Natchez; her brother, Dr. William R. “Bill” Priester, III and his wife, Jean, of Memphis; her niece, Shan Priester Fite and her husband, Matt, of Memphis and her nephew, Dr. William Bradford Priester and his wife, Joanna, of Jackson, Tenn. and family friends Gloria Ware Jones and John Sago.

The family thanks her caregivers for their wonderful service, care and kindness. These include Ashley Green, Home Sweet Home Homecare, Heart 2 Heart Homecare, Compassus Hospice, Alfreda Singleton, Veronica Johnson, Barbara Reed, Jessica Carter, Valerie Davis and Kawana Smith.

The family requests memorial contributions be directed to the Natchez Humane Society, 475 Liberty Road, Natchez, MS 39120, or to the Carolyn Vance Smith Natchez Literary Research Center, Co-Lin Foundation, P.O. Box 649, Wesson, MS 39191.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at