John “Jack” Byrne
Etna, N.H. — John “Jack” Byrne, 80, died at his home in Etna on Thursday, March 7, 2013, surrounded by his loving wife Dorothy and their family. He had fought a long and courageous battle with cancer.
His love of life and his enthusiasms for business, golf, gardening, skiing, friendships, and his faith enabled him to continue the effort.
He is survived by his wife, Dorothy; three sons, John, Mark, and Patrick; daughter-in-law, Rebecca; seven grandchildren, Noelle, Kaelee, Sophie, Jacqueline, Matthew, Christopher, and Ava; his brother James Byrne of Wildwood, N.J.; and several nieces and nephews.
Byrne, a legend in the insurance industry, began working at his father’s insurance agency in Wildwood, N.J. as a teenager. He pursued business, actuarial, and economics studies at Rutgers and the University of Michigan. He began his business career at Lincoln National Life as an actuary, earning the benchmark industry credential “Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society.”
After a distinguished leadership role at Traveler’s culminating as Executive Vice President, Byrne accepted the challenging task of rescuing GEICO from bankruptcy in 1976. GEICO’s future hung in the balance for many months as Byrne worked frantically with regulators, insurance industry peers, and Wall Street to craft a recovery strategy. GEICO’s return to prosperity is one of the great comebacks in insurance history. GEICO is now the wholly-owned crown jewel of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
After serving as GEICO’s Chairman, President, and CEO for a decade, Byrne became Chairman of Fireman’s Fund, which he took public for American Express in the largest Initial Public Offering of its day. A revived and profitable Fireman’s Fund was sold to Alliance in 1990, and Byrne converted the retained holding company assets into the White Mountains Insurance Group, operating out of the Upper Valley for the last 20 years.
Byrne was selected as “Insurance Industry Leader of the Year” by The St. John’s University School of Risk Management in 2001, and inducted into the International Insurance Hall of Fame in 2009. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth, and dedicated Byrne Hall at the Amos Tuck School to his three sons, John, Mark, and Patrick, who all attended Dartmouth. His dozens of board memberships included American Express, Martin Marietta, The International Special Olympics, The National Symphony Orchestra, and his own Byrne Foundation, which benefits a wide variety of organizations in the Upper Connecticut River Valley and elsewhere.
Viewing hours will be on Monday, March 11, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Rand-Wilson Funeral Home in Hanover, N.H. Mass will be held on Tuesday, March 12 at 11 a.m. at St. Denis Roman Catholic Church in Hanover. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to Palliative Care at Norris Cotton Cancer Center or the Upper Valley Haven.
To view an online memorial, please visit www.rand-wilson.com.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Rand-Wilson Funeral Home of Hanover.