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VIDEO: ‘A man of remarkable resilience,’ Jim Byrnes given honorary KPU degree in Surrey

‘After some trouble in my life, I turned it around and I showed up,’ musician/actor says
Musician/actor Jim Byrnes (seated in wheelchair) is presented with an honorary degree by Dr. Alan Davis, KPU president and vice-chancellor, during a convocation ceremony in Surrey on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (Submitted photo)

Vancouver-area blues musician and actor Jim Byrnes was in Surrey Thursday (Feb. 16) to receive an honorary degree at KPU’s convocation ceremony.

A doctorate of laws was given to the St. Louis-born Byrnes, 74, whose career in entertainment spans six decades, starting in 1964 with his first pro concert.

He is “a man of remarkable resilience,” stated Dr. Alan Davis, president and vice-chancellor of KPU.

“A humble person who has always sought ways to help others, he has supported numerous charitable causes while overcoming significant challenges on his inspiring path toward success, and also bringing joy to so many people.”

Growing up in Missouri, Chuck Berry lived eight blocks from Byrnes and family, and Ike and Tina Turner often gigged at his neighbourhood bowling alley.

In 1972, Byrnes was 23 when his life changed forever. On Vancouver Island, his legs were amputated in hospital after a vehicle hit him from behind on a highway while Byrnes helped to move a stalled truck.

Today, Byrnes supports the Face the World Foundation, which helps the less fortunate in Vancouver. He’s also a supporter and board member of Odd Squad Productions, which helps empower youth to make positive life choices that encourage drug-free healthy living. He also visits hospital patients who’ve lost a limb.

Byrnes has frequently performed at White Rock’s Blue Frog Studios, including a November 2021 show broadcast live in New Zealand.

His KPU honorary degree follows an Order of Canada award in 2022.

“I’m eternally grateful and honoured, and humbled by the fact that people saw that I showed up,” Byrnes said in a news release from KPU. “After some trouble in my life, I turned it around and I showed up. And maybe that can provide some inspiration for other people.”

RELATED: KPU’s ‘O Canada’ video remixes anthem with rarely-heard lyrics, graphic-novel look.

READ ALSO: Sounds of social justice at Surrey’s new Wake Up! music festival, Feb. 23 at KPU.

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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