Remembering Larry Byrne, 1942-2024

Larry Byrne, Designer.

James Laurence “Larry” Byrne was Monolithic’s in-house designer for 32 years. He is responsible for developing many industry norms. He is considered a founding father of the Monolithic Dome industry.

Monolithic / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Three Amigos.

David B. South, Larry Byrne and Gary Clark present certificates to Monolithic Dome Builders Workshop attendees. The three men taught hundreds of people how to build domes and had a lot of fun doing it.

Monolithic / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

On Tuesday, April 23, 2024, we laid to rest our friend and colleague, James Laurence Byrne, in the Sutton Cemetery near Rexburg, Idaho. Larry—as we knew him—was a family man, church and community leader, farmer, former Air Force Captain, and a pioneer in the Monolithic Dome industry. For three decades, Larry served as chief designer at Monolithic, where he designed everything from houses to giant storages, developed standardized design elements still used across the dome industry, and consulted with engineers and architects as they worked to become familiar with dome design.

Early Life

Larry was raised on a farm in the rural community of Archer, Idaho. He attended Madison High School in Rexburg, where he met his future wife, Marilee Munns. Larry and Marilee were “going steady” through high school. Larry said he loved to dance with Marilee, and they were good at it. They married in the Idaho Falls Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on September 10, 1965.

After high school, he attended Ricks College in Rexburg and then transferred to the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, where he studied engineering and architecture. Marilee also attended U of I and went on to be a high school teacher and school administrator.

Marilee and Larry.

Larry and Marilee were married on September 10, 1965. They dated in high school and college. Larry was a devoted husband and father.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

O Captain! My Captain!

Larry had a distinguished military career. He served in Korea and retired in 1971 as a Captain in the Air Force. In 1967, he earned a small arms expert marksmanship ribbon.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Larry graduated from the University of Idaho during the Vietnam War. Rather than waiting to be drafted, he enlisted in the Air Force. He wanted to be a pilot or a navigator, but his poor hearing—probably caused by years of seasonal allergies—disqualified him from flight school. Instead, he served in the 313th Combat Support Group, Civil Engineering Squadron. Their first posting was in Kansas. Later, he served a year in South Korea. He completed his military service as an Air Force Captain.

After the Air Force, he moved his wife and two small children back to the farm in Archer. After sixteen years—plus two more children—of the ups and downs of farm life, they decided it was time to move on.

The 80s.

Larry started working for Monolithic about eight years after the first Monolithic Dome. Up until then, almost every dome had been industrial. Larry helped popularize domes for homes, schools, churches, gymnasiums and more.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Taller than the Rest.

Larry peers over the tops of the heads of his coworkers in this photo from David B. South’s (at right) 55th birthday in 1994.


Monolithic Dome Designer

Larry had seen several Monolithic Dome structures—including the big yellow dome in Rexburg, about which Marilee said, “Whoever built that should be shot!”—and wondered, who built these domes. He found Monolithic in Idaho Falls and dropped off his resumé. In 1984, David B. South hired Larry to work on dome designs.

During the summer, Larry worked on the job sites to get a feel for the construction process and the people who were part of the business.

Later that fall, he began designing domes using the first computer-aided design (CAD) system in Southeast Idaho.

The dome business was less than ten years old and primarily industrial, with potato, fertilizer, and other storage projects mixed with a smattering of architectural buildings here and there. Larry’s task was more than simply designing new structures; it was to help create a new industry.

The Architect.

Larry and Marilee’s house at the Monolithic Dome Institute is still referred to as “the pretty one” by neighbors.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Larry had no preconceived notions of how the industry should go. When he joined Monolithic, he was a whisker away from getting his architectural license. It soon became apparent that being a licensed professional would, ironically, interfere with his job. He needed to set aside the pursuit of an architectural license so he could use his expertise and talent to support every aspect of the industry—not just be available for stamping plans.

And Larry didn’t have that typical architect ego. He understood he could have more sway in how the industry grew if he worked behind the scenes—encouraging and guiding other designers, architects, and engineers—instead of having his name stamped on projects as the “official Architect.”

He became the hidden designer behind so many buildings—it’s hard to imagine how many. Hundreds for sure, but probably over a thousand. He designed houses, gymnasiums, churches, storages, and more. He laid the groundwork for common architectural details that became design standards in the dome industry. He worked tirelessly—for almost 40 years—as a consultant for many engineers, architects, and other design professionals to help them understand the difference between dome construction and regular construction.

Shamrock Chateau.

Designed by Larry, the Shamrock Chateau is a beautiful Monolithic Dome Home.

Monolithic / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

California Dreaming.

Larry stands outside the home in Manteca that he and Marilee rented when Monolithic Constructors moved to California in 1989.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Following Monolithic to California and Texas

When CALAMCO hired Monolithic to build two giant storage domes in Stockton, California, the Byrnes loaded up their family and moved. Less than two years later, Monolithic moved—again. This time, to a one-horse town about 50 miles south of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex—-Italy, Texas.

It’s a special kind of family to uproot twice and stay with a company like Monolithic. It wasn’t always easy—especially during the recession in the early 1990s. They stuck with us and eventually constructed their own Monolithic Dome Home at the company’s Research Park.

To this day, people ask, “Who owns the pretty house on Dome Park Place?”

We all know they are referring to the house that Larry had complete creative control over—his own. It was and is the prettiest house at the Research Park.

Wide Open Spaces.

The interior of Larry and Marilee’s Monolithic Dome Home has an open floor plan.

Monolithic / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Called to Serve.

Larry and Marilee pose in front of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, before leaving on their 18-month mission to New Zealand.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Retirement and Beyond

Larry retired in 2015 after three decades of helping to shape the Monolithic Dome industry. Marilee also retired after serving as a teacher and principal for hundreds of students.

Larry was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having served in various leadership positions and even as the bishop of the local congregation. After retiring, he and Marilee served an eighteen-month mission for the church in New Zealand, where they cataloged and scanned books and other historical documents for family history research on the Family Search website.

In 2023, they moved to Utah to be closer to their family.

James Laurence Byrne passed away on April 16, 2024, due to complications caused by vascular dementia.

Larry loved life, his family, and traveling to see the wonders of the world. He made an indelible impression on those of us who were lucky enough to work with him. His contributions to the Monolithic Dome industry are immense and profound.

He was a gentle giant—physically imposing yet soft-spoken, kind and extremely patient. We all loved working with Larry. He was more than a colleague; he was our friend. He had a unique, dry sense of humor—all the way to the end. He will be forever missed but never forgotten.

Larry is preceded in death by his father, James Ross Byrne, and his mother, Lilia Joyce Squires Byrne. He has left behind his three sisters, JoAnn Cramer, Louise Twitchell, and Marie Shaffer; his wife, Marilee (Munns) Byrne; his children, Mike Byrne, Kari Rydalch, Matt Byrne, and Stacey Bergquist; as well as fourteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

If you would like to pay tribute, the Byrne family requests that instead of flowers, donations may be made to Champ’s Heart

A Huge Legacy.

The Byrne family farm’s barn, built in 1917, is a beautiful backdrop for this four-generation photo of Larry and Marilee’s family.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Baby Byrne.

A tiny Larry carefully watches over his domesticated animals.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Back at the Ranch.

The Byrne family ranch in Archer, Idaho. The massive barn had 35 stalls at ground level to house and care for draft horses. In 1917, it took 22 horses to pull the family’s combine.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Madison High School Dance.

Larry and Marilee at a dance at Madison High School. Marilee would later go on to be an English teacher at MHS. When they moved to Texas, Marilee eventually became the principal of Milford High School in the nearby town of Milford, Texas.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Chosen for the Promenade.

Larry and Marilee, at left, were chosen as part of the Junior Prom royalty court at Madison High School.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

The Graduate.

Larry graduated from Madison High School in 1960. He continued working at the family ranch while taking a few classes at Ricks College (now Brigham Young University—Idaho). In the mid-sixties, he graduated from the University of Idaho in Moscow.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Larry vs. the Rexburg, Idaho Frozen Winters.

In a recounting of his life compiled by Marilee, Larry says, “The winters in Idaho are cold. And we calved in February. Temperatures often dipped to 20 degrees below zero. When the cows were ready to calve, we would bring them into the barn. Once in a while, we would misjudge the timing, and a cow would calve out in the snow. We would gather up Mama and the calf and bring them to the barn, but a few times, the calf would have frozen ears, so I would bring him into the house and put him in a bathtub of warm water.”

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Wider Open Spaces.

The farmland fields of the Byrne family ranch in Archer, Idaho. The barn and homestead are at the base of the small butte at the top, right.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

A Young Family.

Larry and Marilee had four children. Two daughters, Stacey and Kari, and two sons, Matt and Mike.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Grandpa Larry.

Larry in his ever-present cowboy boots with granddaughters Cheltsey and Brittany. Larry loved his grandkids, and they flocked to him.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

A Roman Centurion.

Larry played a significant role in the early days of Bethlehem Revisited, a three-hour interactive nativity play in Waxahachie, Texas. The shows are presented all month and include an entire city block in December every year. He helped create the small city and played a centurion for many years.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

A Happy Family.

Mike, Matt, Marilee, Larry, Kari, and Stacey take time to pose for a photo after church.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

A Thoughtful Son.

Larry designed this house, located on the family’s ranch in Idaho, for his parents in the late 1990s.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

North to Alaska!

Larry touring the glaciers of Alaska.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Travelers and Jokers.

Larry always had a great sense of humor, as does his wife, Marilee. Here they are in Egypt hamming it up for the camera.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

Thank You for Spotting Him!

Larry attempts to kiss the Blarney Stone!

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

A Memorable Trip.

Larry and Marilee in front of the famous Roman Colluseum.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

This is SO Larry.

The gentlest of giants, Larry was loved by everyone.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media

The Dome of the Rock.

A trip to Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock was a highlight of Larry’s life with his forever friend and wife, Marilee.

Byrne Family / Submitted Media