Byron Birdsall was born in Buckeye, Ariz on Dec. 18, 1937 and was raised in Herman, Calif, a suburb of Los Angeles.
Byron graduated from Los Angeles Pacific High School and then obtained a history degree from Seattle Pacific College in 1959. He then earned a master’s degree in education from Stanford University and taught for four years in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Byron married Lynn Sternberg in 1960 and they were accepted to a U.S. government program teaching English to African students in Kampala, Uganda which Byron called a “golden time.” They loved it there and stayed for four years. It was in Uganda that Byron started painting professionally and selling pictures for $40 each, which went a long way in 1967. They spent a year at Galu Beach in Mombasa and then decided it was time to go home.
They took their time returning to the U.S., stopping in Bombay, Sri Lanka, Macau and Hong Kong. It was in Hong Kong that Byron fell in love with the work of Hiroshige and Hokusai and started copying their classic Japanese techniques.
After returning to Seattle, Byron got a job as art director of the public television station in Pago Pago, American Samoa. It was there that their son, Joshua, was born in 1973. After two years of heat and humidity, they decided again to return home to Seattle, and Byron accepted a job as creative director for an advertising agency in Anchorage, Alaska. This relocation was the beginning of his life-long love of Alaska, the beauty of the wilderness and the special people who live there.
Byron said the following:
“A dream come true. That is what Alaska has given to me. Incredible beauty for subject matter, and a receptive public have combined to allow me to do what I love best, painting all day, every day for more than 41 years.”
Byron and Lynn’s daughter, Courtenay, was born in 1976 and now lives with her husband, Trevor, in Skagway, Alaska. She has followed in her father’s footsteps and is an artist in her own right. Joshua now lives in Minneapolis with his wife Amy and their two daughters, Sage and Thea Rose. He is a designer and builder of homes.
In 1998, Byron’s first love, Lynn Sternberg, died of cancer. And in 1999 Byron reconnected with an old college sweetheart, Billie Jean Winship, and they were married for 17 years.
This marriage brought with it two adult children, Pamela Bell and Timothy Winship, and six grandchildren: Jeffrey, Lauren and Andrew Winship; and Nicholas, Mikayla and Samantha Bell, who all called him Grandpa.
Byron’s legacy is the stunning beauty of the Alaska landscape of mountains, water, city and sky. His moons over the mountains will forever be called a Birdsall moon. He painted what he saw and he loved it. He will be greatly missed.
A memorial service will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church on Whidbey Island, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. A service will be held in Anchorage at a later date.