|Betty Byrnes Consbruck
Florence Byrnes was born on a farm near Vail, Iowa. During her early years the family relocated several times as the drought and depression era made farming difficult. They settled in Ames, Iowa where Florence completed junior and senior of high school. In order to pay her expenses to Iowa State College, as it was then known, she worked as a secretary to the superintendent of documents and as a proofreader, writer, and later an editor for the extension service.
As a Home Economics Journalism student she was also active on many campus publications, especially the Daily Student. Even though she had not yet graduated, she was offered and accepted a position with the Denison Review, a weekly newspaper in Denison, Iowa. It was 1942 wartime and she was to fill a man's position who had joined the armed forces. From this position she moved on to the Toledo Chronicle in Toledo, Iowa. From Toledo she joined the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in Michigan as an information specialist encouraging farmers to greater production for the war effort. Later, she was transferred to Washington D.C. with the same agency.
This was an exciting time and location. She became intrigued with the idea of working on the Washington Post newspaper. She obtained a job as head of copy desk for women's and society news. Later her role as reporter, feature writer, and columnist lead to many interesting assignments in the D.C. area.
During this time she was elected to the prestigious Washington National Press Club. In 1993 she was awarded her golden owl 50-year membership certificate. She was also a member of the American Newspaper Women's Club.
Prior to her marriage to Ernest Hall, a government administrator, she worked on the Sioux City Journal in Sioux City, Iowa. After different assignment locations with the government, the family settled in Maryland. The family now included two children, Kendra and Kevin. Florence wanted the children to experience the values of farm living, so they moved to a small acreage.
During a visit to her parents in Ames, Florence purchased a book at the the campus bookstore on raising sheep. At one time her parents had raised sheep when she was a young girl. She already was operating a successful catering business which she had begun with only her knowledge and joy of food preparation and one course in Instituition Management at ISC, which entailed running the college tea room for the summer term. However, the book on sheep raising from ISC launched them into the sheep business, which became their main focus for the next 20 years.
They excelled in every aspect of the sheep business and were the recipients of many awards. Both Florence and Ernest served as officers of the various associations of the sheep and wool industry. They directed 4-H and youth programs within the county and the state. Both of their children rose to local state and national leadership positions within the youth organizations. These accomplishments were aided by the training and encourgement received from their parents' commitment to excellence and also by being exposed to positive role models within the community.
Florence, a self-taught sheep breeder, became much in demand as a judge for all categories at the sheep and wool fairs within and out of the state and also in Canada. These varied from judging the animal, the fleeces, to the lamb cook-offs. Her most prestigious judging invitation was to judge Cheviot sheep at the 1985 North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. This is considered the "World Series" of sheep shows. She was the first person ever chosen from her state of Maryland and one of the first women to be so honored for this event.
Another "first" was when she was named "Sheepman of the Year" in Maryland--the first time a woman was so honored. Florence is one of the founding group members for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, the largest event of its kind in North America. She was also Director of the Natural Colored Wool Growers Assoc. Her journalist background and skills were used in various aspects within the sheep industry, such as newsletters, reports, bulletins, and press releases.
Florence always thrived on challenges. In eighth grade she represented her county at the state spelling bee. The first time ever for the school she attended to be so represented. Although she didn't win at the state level, it represented a challenge well met. She continued meeting challenges. Achieving a college education during the depression era was a financial challenge for many youths, including Florence. She always seemed to be ahead of her time and was constantly reaching for new and higher goals. Because of this attribute she was a trail-blazer for the women of her era and an inspiration for those to follow. I am extremely proud to honor my sister Florence Byrnes Hall in the Plaza of Heroines.