Remembering Clarence Byrd and Ida Chen

Husband and wife, Clarence Byrd and Ida Chen, who authored Canada’s leading tax accounting book, passed away on May 30th 2020 and November 6th 2019, respectively, after battling with cancer.

The Pearson community is deeply saddened by the passing of Clarence Byrd and Ida Chen, beloved authors who dedicated their lives to championing accounting education.

For over 35 years, Clarence and Ida have been extensively involved in Canadian accounting education. Their book, Canadian Tax Principles, has been used by many thousands of students and instructors at colleges and universities, and continues to be read and relied upon by learners across the country.

Before he passed away, Clarence prepared a tribute to his wife, Ida. He wrote:

On November 6, 2019, Ida Chen, my wife of 43 years, died from cancer.

In our years together, Ida and I authored some 150 books on financial accounting and tax. These books were used by tens of thousands of students, as well as by many accounting professionals.

While Ida's efforts were essential to the success of our publications, her contributions to our life together were even more important to me. We were best friends from the beginning of our marriage and, during the last 15 years, after my teaching was restricted to online efforts, we spent pretty much 24/7 together. We skied, hiked, climbed, and biked all over North America. We shared great food and, over the years, had several beautiful homes. Both the success of our books and the joy we found in our life together were beyond our wildest dreams.

We have lived the greatest love story that I have ever witnessed. I miss her terribly.

With Clarence and Ida’s passing, Gary Donell will continue their legacy as the new leading author of Canadian Tax Principles. To honour their memory, Gary reflected on his relationship and experiences with the couple. Below is an excerpt from his memorium to Clarence:

[In the late nineties] I had worked for the training organization for the CRA teaching and writing courses and had become an income tax rulings officer in Ottawa shortly thereafter. I regularly read tax textbooks and other tax literature and came across a relatively new publication “Canadian Tax Principles” written by Clarence Byrd and Ida Chen. I read through the textbook and reached out making recommendations as to improvements. It was a bit of a bold move but it was well received by Clarence who reciprocated by personally reaching out to me. Clarence realized that my background with the CRA could only improve the textbook and our collaboration, which would last for more than twenty years, had begun. Ida once described our complimentary skills as producing one of the finest writing teams she had ever seen. What made it all work was that Clarence, Ida and myself were dedicated to effective quality tax education.

My role with Clarence and Ida was as a consultant, advisor, technical reviewer and sometimes co-author writing a handful of chapters and some problem material. It was not unusual for me to speak to Clarence two or three times a day particularly during annual Federal budgets or unexpected changes to the Income tax laws. Our collaboration led to constant discussions on what to add, what not to add and how to go about introducing new topics in the most effective manner.

Ida was the glue that kept it all together. She was a dynamo, a gifted organizer and administrator who could have easily fit into the fabric of the largest companies in the world. We knew that Ida had been struggling with cancer for a few years and beaten the odds more than a few times but her passing in November of 2019 was an incredibly difficult time for my wife and I and everyone who knew her.

Through it all, Clarence, always a rock, began to show the signs of stress and his own medical situation worsened. Our collaboration accelerated as he was dedicated to completing what would be his final edition of Canadian Tax Principles. That publication held a special place in his heart. Clarence and Ida had created the textbook together from scratch and they took exceptional pride in each and every annual release.

In the final weeks before Clarence passed on Saturday May 30, 2020 he worked furiously with a dedication to complete all the necessary steps possible to ready the textbook for publication. Our telephone conversations increased substantially during this time as our collaborative efforts took on a new urgency, purpose and meaning. Clarence took comfort in knowing that I would pick up the reins to ensure the continuity of the successful text that both he and Ida had created together.

I look back on my relationship with these two remarkable individuals with happiness that our paths crossed for a common purpose and dedication to ideals of education. Along the way on this journey my wife and I had the opportunity to enjoy their company and friendship. We think of them every day and will miss them tremendously.

We extend our deepest heartfelt condolences to their families and friends. Clarence Byrd and Ida Chen’s passing is a terrible personal and professional loss for many of us at Pearson Canada.

We shall never forget them.