Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Remembering Marguerite “Chickie” Byrne

Marguerite “Chickie” Byrne was honored by the Larchmont Chronicle in 1982 as a “Woman of Larchmont” (photo from the Larchmont Chronicle August 1982 edition)

Hancock Park resident Marguerite “Chickie” Byrne passed away last month. For those of us who were lucky enough to know her and work with her over the years, we remember her as a tireless advocate for her neighborhood and community. We got to know Chickie through her work as a President and board member of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, where she served for decades until she retired from the board in 2009.

HPHOA President Cindy Chvatal-Keane honored Byrne at the  dedication of the bench in her name at John Burroughs Middle School in June 2011, to thank her for her years of work on behalf of the community.

Chvatal-Keane wrote about her predecessor:

“Long time board member and past president retired from the board in 2009, Chickie was the first woman board member and was part of the important fight and successfully opposed the Beverly Hills Freeway. She’s been on the traffic committee whose many years of efforts saw the implementation of a number of traffic mitigation solutions. She was also a stalwart worker on the 10-year HPOZ/preservation process, as well as spearheading parkway tree plantings and many many other efforts, including serving as the communication secretary for the last 10 years. Chickie is always willing to attend the hearing or meeting, and has been tireless in her efforts to protect Hancock Park. Old time quadrant one residents will remember how she helped close down the massage parlor that used to operate next to Wagon Wheel School. The Board will miss Chickie’s warm and helpful presence at its meetings, and we wish her and her family all the best in the future.”

Byrne was also credited with preventing modern street lights from replacing the neighborhood’s historic fixtures. Hancock Park resident and association board member Jim Wolf, who worked closely with Byrne on the effort to convince the city to allow the neighborhood to keep the historic fixtures and still improve the lighting, shared the story with us.

First, Byrne drafted Wolf, an architect, to join the HPHOA board. He’d gotten to know Byrne over the years when his father served as a president of the association. After his dad passed away in 1987, Byrne urged Wolf to join the board and to help Loretta Lindholm, Vice President of the association and a Rossmore Ave. resident, who was chairing the street light committee.

“Chickie was one of those people who believed that we were stewards of the neighborhood and it was our job to preserve those things that drew us to the neighborhood in the first place,” said Wolf. “At the time, the city had just one formula for street lights, but Chickie wanted them to do something different in Hancock Park to preserve our historic character. We were used to having a sympathetic ear at City Hall in those days. John Ferraro, who representing the district was also a neighbor and a City Council President, and there was a strong continuity among neighborhood leadership, which really helped because the project took years to complete.”

Once city engineers figured out a way to use ornamental fixtures, residents had to agree to pay for the lights, recalled Wolf. And that was where Byrne displayed her negotiating skills, winning over all the residents’ support to agree to be assessed equally, instead of by using lot frontage, which the city had proposed, even though some residents would benefit more than others, depending on where their property was located, explained Wolf.

“Chickie was able to convince everyone that the biggest dividend would be paid to the entire neighborhood,” recalled Wolf, “because people could walk more, because the entire neighborhood would be better lit and safer, and that’s exactly what happened. The average assessment was about $10,000 and it was paid over 9 years as part of the property tax bill. The project cost $10-20 million project in today’s dollars. Tom LaBonge, then Ferraro’s deputy, helped us navigate through the programing. It served as a model to help a neighborhood in Brentwood deal with their lights.”

It took seven years but the ornamental street lights you see in Hancock Park today are the result of Byrne’s persistence.

Byrne was also a tireless advocate for preservation. She was one of the first to recognize that the city’s mansionization ordinance was insufficient.

“Chickie figured out that a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone was the only tool that could preserve the houses,” said Wolf. “She knew that property rights would make the HPOZ controversial as some owners would balk at being told what to do, but she felt like the trade off was worth it.”

Byrne was also instrumental in welcoming new members to the board, recalled Wolf.

“She was a strong proponent of maintain a balance of the geography from the board members from the four areas; the neighborhood near the Los Angeles Tennis Club, sometimes called the Hancock Park cul de sac; the area between Beverly Blvd and Melrose Avenue; the area between Beverly Blvd. and Third Street, and the area between Third Street and Wilshire Blvd.,” said Wolf. “Chickie wanted wide representation since our efforts were usually focused on public safety, traffic and crime. She also wanted to make sure filming activity was equitable and she helped cement that into a policy that everyone embraced. Chickie knew how to get people behind an idea. She was also incredibly humble.”

Meanwhile, with even more memories, Byrne’s family shared this obituary with the Buzz.

Marguerite “Chickie” Heyn Byrne  August 14, 1936 – January 17, 2021

Chickie Byrne died peacefully on January 17, 2021 due to complications of COVID-19 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.  She was born in Los Angeles on August 14, 1936, the daughter of Zola and John Heyn.  She attended Manual Arts High School (student body VP) and UCLA (BA 1958), where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.  Chickie met her husband, Richard (Skip) Byrne, in 1957 while they were both participating in UCLA’s Project India, a student goodwill program in which 14 students and two advisors spent the summer traveling in India and speaking to Indian students and community groups about the United States and democracy.   She and Skip were married on September 20, 1958.  Chickie obtained her secondary teaching credential from Cal State University, Sacramento the year after they were married.

Chickie is survived by Skip, her husband of 62 years; their six children – Mark (Cindy), Elizabeth Debreu (Stan), Matthew (Maureen), John (Allison), Andy (Maggie) and Joe (Gayle); their 18 grandchildren; her brother’s two sons, Chris and Stephen Heyn, and their families, and many other relatives and friends.  She was predeceased by her brother, Carl Heyn and his wife, Carolyn.

In addition to raising her family, Chickie was actively involved in many community, charitable, educational and religious organizations, including St. Anne’s, the Social Service Auxiliaries of the Sisters of Social Service, Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women & Children, Christ the King Catholic Church, Cathedral Chapel School, Daniel Murphy High School, Loyola High School, Notre Dame Academy, and the Hancock Park Homeowners Association.  She served on the School Board of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for ten years and also taught natural family planning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for ten years.

Chickie was a loving, caring, outgoing. articulate and accomplished woman, a true leader in many ways.  Known for her boundless energy, friendship, and devotion to her husband, family and Catholic faith, she was unique and will be truly missed.

Due to COVID-19, funeral services and interment will be limited to the immediate family.  A celebration of Chickie’s life will take place at a later, safer time.  

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Chickie’s name to St. John of God Retirement & Care Center, 2468 S. St Andrews Pl., Los Angeles 90018, to any of the charities listed above or to a charity of your choice.


Marguerite “Chickie” Heyn Byrne, August 14, 1936 – January 17, 2021 (photo from the Byrne family)


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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