Eulogy for my Dad

A few years ago, as most of you know, my Dad was rushed to Boston Medical Center and had bypass surgery. We joked at the time that there was a bright side to that operation: it proved he had a heart! But it really didn't take looking into the man's chest to see he had a heart. In looking at this gathering of friends, co-workers, fellow club members and most of all family, there is evidence enough for any one needing proof that in the man we are here to remember there was indeed a heart, for he was able to touch something in the men and women and children who encountered him with those qualities that come from the heart: loyalty, joy, passion, love.

Several years ago, when I lived and worked in Washington, my father made a fishing rod for one of my coworkers. When my friend Frank got his rod, he took a long, slow look at it, and letting out his breath said, "you know, the difference between your father's generation and ours is that his generation could take a hobby and turn it into a craft like this. It's not enough to get a job done, they have to make it an art." And while I hope that isn't something that can't be found today, what Frank said about my dad's generation, and about my dad in particular, is certainly true.

Ron Cavanaugh had a passion for doing things well. At work, this passion for excellence meant it was not enough to just do the job assigned -- Dad would come up with new ways to do the job better, and if necessary, he'd make the machines that enabled him to do it. It wasn't enough for Dad to fix the guide on a rod -- he had to learn how to make a rod from scratch, and to make it beautiful at that. And that passion for doing things well and for bring a personal signature to each instance of his craftmanship means that there are mementos of his work that will remain among us for years to come. They testify to his passion to do things right.

Like every man born into this world, my dad knew struggles: growing up without a father, deaths of those close to him, illness, and the myriad troubles that six growing children would present any man. But unlike some men, my dad fought against those things that can rob life of joy. And his principal way to do that was by telling stories. Most of you have heard my dad's stories; maybe more than once; maybe many times more than once. One story that I recall is how he visited a co-worker who was hospitalized with cancer, quite a young man at the time. My dad had visited him several times, and the thing about his friend that made him want to continue to visit was that he didn't feel he was going into the room of a dying man. He was going into the room of a man who was living, who was glad to be living, and who was glad of it right to the end.

And Ron Cavanaugh was grateful for life and enjoyed the good things we are provided in this world. He made sure to enjoy the ocean, the pleasure of friends' company, and the family he had raised and watched grow. When the opportunity arose, he took the early retirement, and had fifteen good years of the snow bird life, alternating fighting stripers and blues in the summer with snook in the winter.

My Dad, a man whose life was barely the three score and ten that the psalmist says a man can hope for, a life that was too short by far, has died. A death that was not expected, that came suddenly. Sudden death prevented him from doing some things he put off just one day too long: the long-desired trip to Ireland, for instance, which was the reason he joined the Emerald Society three decades ago. And perhaps some words that he would speak to many of you who are here today. And so, if I may be so bold, let me conclude this eulogy, this speech of "good words", by speaking those delayed good words of his to you.

To Pete, Bob, and his many coworkers of more than 30 years, I know my dad wanted to say thanks, for making the drive to Canton one he often looked forward to.

To Sully, Paul, John, Richie and all of his fellow boatsmen and fishermen, continue to treasure the wonder of the sea, the thrill of fight and the sight of those silver stripes being brought aboard.

To my brothers and sisters, know how proud he was of you, and how glad he was of the grandchildren you gave him.

To my mom, thank-you, for more than 50 years of love, of dedication, of making a life worth living.

Delivered by Steve Cavanaugh on June 17, 2006 at the Memorial Mass at St. Joseph's Church, Holbrook, Mass.