Thomson Funeral Home


Robert Thomas Byrnes

26 September, 194618 September, 2020

With deep sadness, we announce the peaceful passing of Dr. Robert Thomas Byrnes on September 18, 2020. He will be missed by his family, friends, students and colleagues. Born in Ontario, Robert moved to California as a teenager, with his parents. After receiving his PhD from UCLA, he returned to Canada in 1990 to join the faculty of the University of Winnipeg. He was a devoted teacher, until his very last course, in Fall 2019. His students loved their "Coach" - as he modestly preferred to be addressed. All along his 30-year career he inspired and mentored many of them, often into their professional lives. A specialist of the English language, he passed on his expertise in popular classes, always encouraging critical thinking and freedom of speech. Committed to Education, he contributed greatly to the development of courses and programs. He was also a distinguished James Joyce scholar, whose publications will remain relevant for future generations of Joyceans. His colleagues will greatly miss his cheerful collegiality, his humour, and engaging, unpedantic conversation, yet abound with a vast knowledge of literature, history and philosophy. He will be remembered as thoughtful and kind-hearted. Many will cherish the DVDs he generously created with their "Philosophy of Life" interviews, or at special family events. Many will remember their flights over the Prairies. His passion for flying led him to become a pilot, trained at St. Andrews Airport. He loved the aviation world, exchanges with other pilots, mapping flight paths. Loyalty defined him as a friend, humility as a human being. His family and friends will celebrate his full, kind life in their memory. Rest in peace, dear Bob. As keeping with Bob's wishes, cremation has taken place and a private gathering was held. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Bob's name to a student scholarship or a charity of your choice.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Robert Thomas Byrnes

have a memory or condolence to add?

Christine Lachance

October 5, 2020

Over the years, I signed up for as many of his courses as I could. He brought me to Didion and eventually to my own voice. Thank you, Coach, for expecting wonders and growth. Your classroom was my first at the U of W; years later, when I sought more education, your classroom was also my last. My academic bookends. I'm proud to have been on your Team.

Cathleen Hjalmarson

October 2, 2020

I can almost hear what he’d have to say about the latest Trump news!

Cathleen Hjalmarson

October 2, 2020

That photo of Bob crashed into my heart....

Helen Friesen

October 2, 2020

How saddened we all were to hear of Bob's passing and we will miss him dearly. In one of my classes I was teaching one term, the topic we were talking about one day was teachers that had a big impact on the students. The most often mentioned teacher that had an impact on the students in that class was Bob Byrnes. The students shared incident after incident that highlighted what an amazing educator Bob was. Farewell dear colleague.

Liliane Rodriguez

September 30, 2020

It’s hard to find words that tell the pain of losing a friend, but we keep trying to make up for the sudden silence and share our sadness. I met Bob 15 years ago, on a curriculum committee where we formed the project of introducing a James Joyce course. His enthusiasm, in his words, for “the great adventure” of teaching Joyce, led to a course and Honours seminar, that we shared three times. We would talk over course content and discuss the wonderful students’ essays. I discovered that Bob was a superlative, Socratic teacher. He was so loved and admired by his students! Teaching with him really was an intellectual adventure, with his boundless knowledge of Joyce and ground-breaking interpretations. Since then, our dialogue continued, about Homer, evolutionary psychology, and world events. I will miss his true friendship and the joy of his conversation, in beautiful English, or in his poised, elegant French. Dear Bob, rest in peace. May your kind spirit live on, “unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life.”

Linda Carrey

September 30, 2020

Bob was a loving son and brother. He was gregarious, had a wicked wit, a sharp mind and more importantly, a kind heart. I have fond memories of his generosity, his sage advice and his genuine love of family when we visited with him in California. We were pleased when he returned to his Canadian roots to teach at the University of Winnipeg. We are proud of his accomplishments, we loved him and we will miss him and his booming laughter. Rest in peace, dearest cousin.

Ryan Clement

September 27, 2020

I was a colleague at Rhetoric. I am sorry for your loss. He will be missed.

Jaqueline Rogers

September 26, 2020

So many students and faculty members have written to pass along their warm memories of BOB. We will miss his vibrancy and his complete investment in life and ideas. He knew how to make a point, shake a hand and laugh out loud. He was also sensitive and kind. I believe so many of his students saw both sides at play and were moved by the power of his personality.

Linda Dietrick

September 26, 2020

Bob was a wonderful University of Winnipeg colleague and friend. For a number of years we were both members of a small, informal discussion group, a sort of humanities book club. We met irregularly in the early 2000s to have a meal and talk about fiction, myth, philosophy, theories of mind, and the like. The last book we discussed was Zunshine's Why We Read Fiction. Bob was always up for a good dispute about post-modernism and what he saw as a pervasive decline in literacy. I am certain he was a terrific teacher of lucid writing and thinking. Whenever our paths crossed, even after I was long retired, he always greeted me like a long-lost friend. I will miss him.

Vaclav Linek

September 25, 2020

Visiting with Bob in the Riddell cafeteria was one of those things high on my after-pandemic bucket list. Sadly, Bob is not with us anymore, and there will be no more shooting of the you-know-what at those round tables. I see now how his time as a stagehand made him so much fun to be around. My condolences to his family.


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