Margaret Janice Priester Byrne – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

October 17, 1937 – April 29, 2022

NATCHEZ – A funeral 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 the City of Natchez Cemetery with the Rev. . David O’Connor officiating.

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

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

She graduated as valedictorian from 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 yearbook editor, Colonel Reb .

As a four-year Sugar Bowl scholar and honor roll student at the University of Mississippi, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with high honors in mathematics in 1959. At Ole Miss, she served as secretary of the society of academic honor Mortar Board; president of Kappa Delta sorority; Secretary of the Panhellenic Council; secretary of the Campus Senate; Maid and a Rebelette in the Ole Miss Band.

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

She went on to earn a master’s degree in education from Mississippi College, Clinton and an additional 45 hours of graduate study in math and other fields of study at Ohio State University, Alcorn State University, University of Southern Mississippi and at the University of Mississippi for women.

She taught math in the public school system in Jackson, Miss., before marrying Paul Henry Byrne, Jr., of Natchez in 1963 and moving back to Natchez, where she lived for the rest of her life.

She taught math in the Natchez-Adams school system at Trinity Episcopal School, Adams County Christian School, and for over 20 years at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Natchez Campus. She also served as the Student Support Services Learning Resource Center Lab Manager and Math Tutor at Co-Lin until her retirement in 2019.

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

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

She enjoyed reading and discussing books, Ole Miss Rebels, travelling, playing and teaching mahjong, raising violets, and enjoying her family and friends.

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

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

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

Online condolences can be sent to the family at

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