This story is dedicated to my father, Jack Kavanagh Sr. Big Jack he was called in the Shop. An amusing nickname to his crew, when you realized that my brother, Little Jack, was several inches taller than he. He was named John Joseph Kavanagh but, a mistake on his birth certificate discovered when he applied for Social Security revealed an error. He was technically Joseph John Kavanagh. He was a Joe Kavanagh and didn’t know it. He worked at the Shop for about 47 years. He was the finest leader the Shop ever had in my opinion and I’ve spent a long time studying our history. Firstly, he was an incredibly skilled metalsmith. He seemed to have been born with a piece of metal in one hand and a hammer in the other. Also, he had the ability to foster and grow relationships with customers and vendors. People liked him. I suppose because he liked them. He was an amazing father and boss as I knew him as both. He taught me everything I know. He handed out wisdom to anyone like popcorn at the movies. He lived a long life. He passed August 19, 2017 at the age of 93. He laid witness to more of the history of the Shop than anyone ever has.
He was a man of many talents. He played piano from the age of 8 and could fill a room with music and entice people to sing on special occasions. He was a baseball player in his youth and a lifetime fan. If you were so inclined to enjoy a day of talking baseball, he was your man. He was a veteran. Serving in the Navy on the USS Strickland during World War II. He was proud of his service and being a Navy man, but prouder of the people he met and what they did together. He also served in the MD General Assembly as a Delegate for two terms. Politics was not his cup of tea. He told me too much “glad-handing” for him. Though, of course, he cherished the experience and the memories. He fathered nine children. Each one thinking they were his favorite. No one got slighted by our Dad. It was not in his nature. He chose to treat people like family whether they were or not. He remembered people, he remembered their families and what they liked about life. He had a way of making people feel happy for who they were. I think of him and I smile.
After his passing, the family has found several handwritten versions or snippets of the history of the Shop. It seems he may have been trying to tell this tale for a long time if not, his whole life. Whether it was through storytelling or these written notes we’ve been finding, he wanted this story to be known. I’m going to do my best to do it justice. He was a man who used common sense yet possessed an uncommon heart. He took little pride in his accomplishments, but felt pride in the people he met and knew in his life. I think he found no value in personal pride. It’s not to say he didn’t feel it, but it meant little to him. Life never seemed to get to him. The grueling, overwhelming challenges that we all feel in our lives. He never let it get to him. He was happy and sought to spread that. He lived that life of true freedom that we all seek. He was truly free. Therefore, he feared nothing.
This is for you, Dad. I love you.