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Captain (RT) John Kerwin Byerlein

August 22, 1926 -December 22, 2022

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Captain John Kerwin Byerlein, retired Coast Guard, passed away peacefully in his Newport Beach, California home on December 22, 2022.    He was born on August 22, 1926, the third of seven children of Vincent and Blanche K. Byerlein of Saginaw, Michigan.

 

He is survived by his beloved wife Myrenna Ogbu-Byerlein, brother Donald (Phyllis) Byerlein, sister Katherine (John) Brown; sons John “JB” Byerlein Jr., and Mordeaci Hawthorne; daughters Julie Byerlein, Janet Byerlein, and Meuko (Dwayne) Johnson; grandchildren Isaiah and Keana Johnson, and Mikena Hawthorne; great granddaughter Anela Johnson, and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.   He was preceded in death by his brother Patrick (Julienne) Byerlein, sisters Irene “By” (John) Fauver, Mary Elizabeth “Dibby” (John) Rodgers and Helen “Ann” (Ivar Svenson Jr.)

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John's          Legacy

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Clockwise from top left:  Vincent and Blanche Byerlein; John with brothers and sisters; John and children John "JB" Jr., Janet and Jane; with twin brother Donald "Ace"; planting a flag; and with his Myrenna .  

Officer and Gentleman     John graduated in 1948 from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree of science.  He would often say The Coast Guard “set a life purpose  and tone which will always guide me, and with that high sense of honor, loyalty and obedience which goes with trained initiative and leadership, I will be well grounded.”

 

During his 34 years in the Coast Guard, John served active duty in WW2, in the Korean War and in Vietnam  on high endurance cutters.  He also provided port security, anti-submarine training, led national war college exercises and directed active-duty tours to ensure national security proficiency

 

                                                                            John retired as Captain from the Coast Guard: when he returned                                                                                      to the Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) in 1988 for his class reunion,

                                                                            he and his classmates established an annual Ethics Forum to reinforce                                                                              ethical values and critical thinking among its future Corps of  Cadets.                                                                                In April 1996 the governor of Connecticut proclaimed USCGA Ethics 

                                                                           Forum Days -- and West Point and Annapolis have subsequently each                                                                             incorporated USGCA ethics and integrity guidelines in their                                                                                               leadership programs.

 

Finance Wizard and Community Servant     John earned his MBA from

Harvard University in 1954, and worked for many years as Chief Operating

Officer at both the Burrows Corporation and Howard Hughes Corporation. 

He was an active member of the Newport Beach, California community for

more than 30 years. In 1986,  he and nine other members of the Friends of Oasis, 

the funding arm of the Oasis Senior Center of Newport Beach, founded the

Oasis Sailing Club in keeping with his true spirit, he said its mission was to

“just have fun! -- and fun they had!  John was famous for his gourmet hamburgers

and walnut-laden brownies so delectable it would be impossible to find even

a tiny crumb once they were put on the table.

 

Quintessential Seaman  John was elected Commodore of the Oasis

Sailing Club in 2002 and served in that capacity until 2007, after that

remaining active as its maintenance officer until 2022.   In 2003 he

received the Outstanding Education Volunteer Award, and in 2022 t

he Docent Volunteer Award from the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum: 

he also received the Docent Volunteer Award from the institution in 2022.

 

In 2007 Tom Tolbert asked John to help the Sailing Fascination Foundation,

which had been floundering because there were not enough skippers to

sustain its mission.  In John’s true fashion, he called on all the skippers and mates of the Oasis Sailing Club to help save this important charitable organization, which was  founded to ensure that wounded warriors and adults with disabilities would have an opportunity to be on the water and learn how to sail. Since then, Sailing Fascination has grown to offer around 150 lessons annually utilizing volunteer seamen from the Oasis Sailing Club, and John said helping to advance the foundation was the third act of his legacy.

Loving Husband   The last act of John Kerwin Byerlein’s amazing life legacy began when he met and fell in love with his heart-and-soulmate, Myrenna Ogbu. Married in June 25, 2011,  Myrenna supported John unconditionally and constantly encouraged him to direct his highest efforts toward those who might benefit most from healthy growth programs, such as the Sailing Fascination program.

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There is nothing, absolutely nothing, my friend, half as much worth doing, than simply messing about in boats.

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.John’s Favorite Quote
from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

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