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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Ilse Byrnes—a community member instrumental in the establishment of San Juan Capistrano’s notable trail system and a tireless supporter of other local initiatives—recently died from a stroke, according to her loved ones. She was 94.

Byrnes was also noted as being a voice in pushing for national recognition of the town’s historic landmarks. Along with her late husband and former mayor Dr. Roy Byrnes, she further had a town hiking trail named in her honor.

llse Byrnes was a notable community member who advocated for national recognition of San Juan Capistrano’s historic landmarks and helped establish the town’s trail system. She recently died at the age of 94. Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Byrnes

“My mother was an adventurous woman who traveled throughout the world with my father, Roy Byrnes. They had been married for over 64 years when he passed in 2019,” said her daughter, Barbara Byrnes. “She had an aptitude for languages, speaking the Swiss German dialect, German, French, Italian, English and Spanish fluently. She enjoyed meeting people and finding out about their lives.”

Ilse Byrnes raised Barbara Byrnes and her three siblings while managing the billing and accounting of her husband’s business. She was born in Switzerland and eventually moved to Los Angeles. Ilse and Roy Byrnes were living in San Juan Capistrano by the late 1960s, as a 2018 article noted. She was a longtime docent volunteer for the Montanez Adobe on Los Rios Street.

In what was perhaps a preview of her tendency towards activism, Barbara Byrnes said her mother often taught the kids to “find something to do” when they complained of being bored.

Along with her support for open space preservation and local history, Ilse Byrnes was an advocate for equestrianism and “countless other projects,” according to Barbara Byrnes.

“What I treasure about my mother was her compassion for animals,” Barbara Byrnes said. “Growing up we always had lots of different types of pets – birds, dogs, cats, pigs, goats, horses – you name it. She taught us not only how to care for animals but also to respect them.”

No service is planned but there will be a celebration of Ilse’s life in late spring. Her loved ones want to wait until the weather is warmer and people can safely gather outside, Barbara Byrnes said. The celebration will be in San Juan Capistrano.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.

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