1943 Two Deaths and the War Reaches the Kavanagh’s

January 11

The Shop rolls on busily as the US is beginning to take a leading role in the war around the world. It’s a difficult time for Americans; there are shortages and rationing but the work is abundant. The US is all in on a war that feels justified. We are doing the right thing and on the right team. Americans rally around like rarely before and work together to fight the good fight and bring our boys home.

January 18

Leo Paul Kavanagh has a heart attack and dies suddenly. The family is shocked and deeply saddened. Young Leo was a baseball player and a good young man by all accounts. He was an athlete and in good health or so it appeared to all, but his heart fails him and he dies at the young age of twenty-five.

January 21

Leo Paul Kavanagh is laid to rest in New Cathedral Cemetery with so many Kavanagh’s who have preceded him. The funeral is held at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Church where most of the family are parishioners. His parents, Leo and Maymie, are still in a shocked state. He passed so quickly and so unexpectedly, the grief has hardly hit them yet. It will and it will hit hard. Leo had held out hope that after his boy’s baseball playing days, he would return to the Shop. He would partner with Eddie’s boys and lead the Joseph Kavanagh Company into the future. It won’t happen now and the family decides it is best to remember Leo Paul as the ballplayer he was. A good cheery fellow but a baseball player. He loved the game more than most Kavanagh’s and that’s really saying something.

February 7

The Battle of Guadalcanal comes to a close with the US and Allied forces victorious over the Japanese. Guadalcanal was the first major offensive by the Allies in the Pacific Front and it brings an end to the Japanese offensive movements. The war rages on but this battle turns the table on the Axis and they are forced to go on the defensive.

February 10

Jack continues at MICA and is advancing in drafting, learning the nuances of sketches and point of view for isometric drawings. These are all things he can use at the Shop and Jack thinks about studying Mechanics at MICA as well. If he can afford it, Jack will have to consider it. He’s a strong student and a quick study as he was at Mt. St. Joe’s. After class, he hops on a streetcar to get to the Shop where he must assist his father and Mr. Funke. A large beer vat is being replicated on Central Avenue today. The old one will be returned to the customer, but they want a duplicate. It takes five men to make in five days. It is a lot of work to bang out fast but it is a rush order. The rest of the crew labor on ship parts, distilling drip pans and some boiler parts. A cold day but the Shop is warmed by torches and hard work.

February 14

The US suffers its first major defeat of the war when German troops attack in Tunisia to take back some of the North African territory lost in the prior year. The country follows this war so closely on radio and through the newspaper that a defeat stings Americans, but they know a battle is just a battle and not the entire war. Still, any loss frightens them and drives home how long this war might take.

March 15

The Joseph Kavanagh Company is very busy as more Navy ships are needed and the war pushes the economy on stronger with each passing day. Today, a variety of fittings and parts are made for the pump chambers and associated systems the Shop makes for the shipyards in Philadelphia and Baltimore. The crew cut through the day with rare ease. The weather is pleasant and some days, everything you do seems to go wrong but some days, it all goes right. Leo and Eddie lock the Shop as they both head home feeling confident in their business. The work seems endless and the company has become a fixture in the Baltimore industrial establishment. Their endurance and longevity aid them but their quality makes the difference. The Kavanagh brothers depart and return to their families, Eddie accompanied by his sons; all driving home in Eddie’s Chevy with Jack behind the wheel.

April 3

Leo and Eddie sit in their small office and discuss the news as Leo sketches a large storage tank and Eddie works on a quotation for a distillery. The war is showing no signs of slowing down as fighting continues throughout the Pacific on what are, to the Kavanagh’s, remote islands, and battles rage in North Africa. The Allies have yet to assail Europe and it will only get worse when that happens. The brothers agree that this war will continue for some time. The US has begun rationing more items: metals and even shoes recently. The war effort has priority over everything else in the country now. The hope of a quick end is gone but victory and peace are still the focus. Eddie worries about his son, Jack and his chances of being drafted. He knows they increase every day and he dreads the thought of it. He wants his boy here and he knows his wife will be heartbroken.

Pricing notes on a Continuous Beer Still from 1943. It will be re-quoted in 1944 and the Shop receives the job.

April 22

Today is the anniversary of the 1907 walk out when Joe, James and Frank Kavanagh split from their elder brother Martin. They had had enough of Martin’s mismanagement and his eratic behavior. He was not paying them much and was leading the Shop in a dark direction. After the younger Kavanagh’s formed their own Shop, Martin was bankrupt within three years. This day is also lost to history at this point; it was only discovered after research into old job ledgers, tax documents and newspaper articles that were dug up in 2018. So it is not celebrated in any way and is just an ordinary Thursday with the Shop’s workers making their ship parts while also repairing a still. Four men are on the job site taking care of that while Leo and Eddie field calls. They are getting busier, aided by their large stock of copper block and sheet. The government has put limitations on copper purchases as much is need for munitions for the war. The mint will even make pennies from steel this year to save the copper for the war. The Shop stocked up a good bit last year and they are reaping the benefits now. They have an upper hand on many competing coppersmith shops because they have material on hand. The Kavanagh’s also pride themselves on getting the most out of material. The cuts are precisely made to salvage as much as possible and any scrap is kept on hand and more often then not re-used.

May 12

Winston Churchill meets with President Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. for the Trident Conference and the Axis armies are defeated in North Africa, surrendering to the British and Americans. The War seems destined to be a long one but progress is being made slowly by the Allies.

May 20

Jack Kavanagh turns 19 and the family has a little party for him. His mother makes one of his favorite meals, ham and potatoes. His grandmother makes him a peach pie which is his very favorite dessert. They eat and discuss the news a bit; Churchill addressed Congress to continue rallying support for the war efforts. Annie is quick to change the subject and move things on to lighter fare as this is her son’s birthday. She encourages them all to gather around the piano in the parlor, knowing that the Kavanagh men are always up for a performance. especially her father-in-law. Joe, Eddie and Jack begin taking turns playing and singing. Jack’s brother Ed excuses himself early from the party to go out with his friends. Ed is a little more of a hard partying type than Jack though, of course, Ed is older. It does not go unnoticed by his parents, and his father, in particular, has told him to take it easy on the drinking and carousing. Ed listens but he does what he wants to do. Jack has a great time at his party; he loves family time around the dinner table and especially around the piano.

June 20

Eddie and Jack visit Bugle Field on Edison Highway to watch their favorite local team, the Baltimore E-lite Giants. They have been supporting this team for a few years, attending most Sunday games and the occasional Saturday evening. Jack is a little disappointed as the team is without Roy Campanella who is playing in Mexico this summer. Eddie and Jack watch a doubleheader between Baltimore and the Homestead Grays. They watch two well-played games, talking the whole time about the players and the strategy of the two managers. Jack wishes Campanella was still with the team. He had grown to be quite the fan of this young catcher, watching him develop over several seasons with the E-lite Giants. In fact, through out his life, Jack loved to talk baseball, especially the players and teams he saw. He always said the best he ever saw was Roy Campanella.

July 11

The war in Europe begins in earnest with the Allies, US paratroopers and infantry attacking Sicily. The Kavanagh’s hear the news reports on the radio then read the newspaper account the next morning in hopes there are more details. Americans track what is happening around the world every day as the events unfold. For many, the war seems more real now that there is fighting in Europe. Primarily European immigrants, the battles in the Pacific are far-off islands but Europe is still home in many ways to a lot of Americans. The Kavanagh’s continue working hard at the Shop and they talk baseball more than battles but partly to distance themselves from what they hear on the radio and read in the paper. It is real, very real but while they sweat and labor, they would rather not face it. It will make the day harder whereas the talk of ballgames and family push the minutes by faster.

August 21

A hot Saturday is spent fashioning a long ornate brass railing at the Shop along with a mix of fittings and valves that they fabricate and sell. The railing is heating very carefully as brass is fickle and reacts unpredictably to quick changes in temperature. The railing is then pulled inch by inch around wooden wheels and rings to achieve the long swooping radius required. They work a half-day as this one is a blistering Baltimore summer day. There is little talk of the war or baseball today as they attend to their work but do discuss the heat as that is human nature. They suffer through the day then head home at lunch. The news from the war continues to roll in with Allied bombers attacking Germany and other Axis nations while combined US and British forces have completed the conquest of Sicily. The US forces are led by General George S. Patton and the British by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

Dad & Eddie (Father)1946
Eddie Kavanagh. 1940s.

September 4

James Kavanagh dies. His son Guy calls the Shop and passes it on to Leo and Eddie who call their father, Joe, to tell him.

“Hello, Joseph Kavanagh,” their father answers as if he were still at the Shop. Old habits die hard.

“Joe, it’s Eddie,” his son replies, then pauses for a moment to think of what to say. “I got a call from Guy about your brother, James.” Another pause and Eddie inhales on his cigarette. “He passed away, Joe. Earlier today. He had been sick but not serious then things turned bad fast for him. I’m sorry.”

There was a long silence then Joe spoke up, “Oh I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t know he was sick. I’m glad Guy let us know. Thanks for calling, Eddie.”

The phone clicks and Eddie holds the receiver in his hand for a moment then hangs up. He knows his father who’s not one to show much emotion, and James and he were not on speaking terms. After the split with the Shop, James and Joe never spoke. Joe does not attend the funeral. Joe is the last survivor of all of his siblings now. His sister Sally had passed several years before, leaving only Joe and James but now Joe is the last of the nine children of Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh. Joe can’t help but think about all his siblings. Charles Leo died as an infant, and brother, Vincent De Paul tragically drowned at the age of nine. Both sisters, Katherine & Sarah(called Sally) married and raised families but they have passed. Martin, the eldest, after his troubles with the Shop was killed in Chicago in an industrial accident. Eugene died in a train wreck in 1903. Frank died in 1924 at the Panama Canal from malaria and now James is gone, as well. Now Joe is the last survivor, just as Uncle Joe was. Both outlived all their siblings. Joe muses over it all, but is still not moved enough to attend James’ funeral. There was too much bad blood after the split over the Shop from both brothers. Neither made any effort to stay in touch. Joe considers his age, 77, and realizes he is very lucky. He’s the last.

September 8

General Eisenhower publicly announces the surrender of Italy to Allied forces. There is a surge of hope for a quick end to the fight in Europe. It is quickly quelled as the complexities and challenges of the invasion of Italy pale in comparison to what it will take to attack the Germans who are dug in, well supplied and well armed.

October 11

The New York Yankees exacted some revenge on the St. Louis Cardinals when they won the World Series in a rematch of last year’s contest. The Yanks won the Series four games to one and were, again, led by “the Yankee Clipper,” as he was called, Joe DiMaggio. More and more players are being drafted or enlisting in the service so there are challenges for franchises to field a team. The Kavanagh’s follow the series closely as they follow the baseball season. They talk of the games at work, around the dinner table and as they listen to them on the radio. The war is still on everyone’s minds but talk of ballgames is a welcome respite to thoughts of what is going on around the world now. It is as it always has been with baseball being a large part of the Kavanagh’s lives. Love of the game itself is as strong in the family now as it was fifty years ago.

November 25

A large traditional Thanksgiving dinner is held at 434 N. Lakewood Avenue with all the trimmings of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and, of course, parsnips. Parsnips are a root vegetable and very much a staple of the Kavanagh diet if not the Irish in general. Cooked with butter and honey or brown sugar, they make their way onto the Kavanagh dining table for every major holiday and some times throughout the year. This love of parsnips is one thing that does not fade from the family as even today, Kavanagh holiday dinners certainly include them. Annie slaves over the stove all day, baking a turkey and attending to the many sides that go with it. Her in-laws, Joe and Johanna, join her and Eddie and their sons for the holiday feast. The food is delicious and they eat and talk through the meal, mostly about the war and the world but also the Shop. Afterward, there is apple pie and cake brought by Johanna. They enjoy dessert with tea then retire to the parlor for music. The Kavanagh’s gather around the piano, singing and taking turns playing. It is a pleasant respite to the normal day-to-day and when Joe and Johanna leave they all make plans to visit Sr. Mary Agnes at the Visitation Convent on Saturday. Sr. Mary Agnes is Joe and Johanna’s daughter, Anna, who has been part of the order for fifteen years.

November 28

President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin meet in Tehran to discus the planned invasion of Europe and the conflict around the globe. After several days of meetings, June of next year is targeted for the incursion into Europe. Details will be discussed and coordinated but the general approach for the invasion is agreed upon by all three.

Dad (Jack) & his mother Mimi
Annie Kavanagh 1940s.

December 17

Eddie arrives home from the Shop and joins his wife at the kitchen table after kissing her cheek. Annie is sitting quietly with a letter clutched in one hand and a handkerchief in the other.

“What is wrong, Annie?” her husbands asks as he fishes through his pockets for his pack of cigarettes.

Annie begins to answer but stops herself then says, “Oh, I’m just worried about our boys and all this terrible news we keep hearing from around the world. This war is a horrible thing.” She dabs her eyes then grows silent.

Eddie pats her arm and assures her, “Everything will be fine. I am sure of it. This war can’t go on forever and we’ve been lucky so far with the boys. Jack has not been called yet and all we can do is hope that keeps up.” He lights his cigarette and unfolds the latest edition of the newspaper.

“I know Eddie but I just worry. I-I can’t help but worry.” She rises from the table and stuffs the envelope into her sweater pocket. “Dinner will be just a few minutes.”

“What’s that? That letter?” Eddie asks though he’s preoccupied with the paper.

“It’s nothing. Something delivered by mistake. A wrong address,” she answers as she tends to a large pot of Irish stew on the stove. “You better call the boys in to dinner. The stew is done and I have biscuits too.”

“Mmm sounds great. Perfect for a December day.” Eddie smiles then walks to the doorway and calls his sons. Ed and Jack join them and they enjoy their biscuits and stew as they talk of the Shop and briefly discuss the impending holiday.

December 24

The annual Christmas Party is a loud boisterous affair this year, much of the worry and concern over the war has been replaced with a heightened enthusiasm for the fight against Hitler and the other Axis powers. The dirty Shop is quickly cleaned and decorated for the party. Customers, vendors, employees and friends join the Kavanagh’s to celebrate the Yule. This event has happened every year on Central Avenue since the Shop moved here. There is food, drink and always music: carols being sung by the group and some holiday favorites sung solo by Joe Kavanagh. The world is at war and it weighs on everyone but the holidays are the holidays and they celebrate appropriately. It has been a successful year for the business but tough on the family. Two deaths; one if not expected was not surprising, James was an older fellow and had lived a long life. Leo Paul, however, was not close to his prime yet and had so much life ahead of him. The family has done its best to be there for Leo, Maymie and Mary, their daughter. A death that occurs so suddenly is hard to grasp much less understand. They pray and rest on their faith and each other to get through it. The family has mourned and now looks to the future, welcoming Christmas and the coming new year. Only one Kavanagh is strangely quiet and detached from the festivities. Annie, Eddie’s wife, carries a sad secret; Jack has received his induction notice to report for training and service. Annie has kept it secret for a week. She hid it and will tell Jack and the rest after the holiday. She didn’t want to spoil Christmas for him but she is grievously worried for her son. She feels certain then when he goes off to this war, he will not return the same if at all. She has yet to confide with her husband but will do so Christmas night after all the celebrating is over. Joe has taken center stage on the dirty wooden floor boards of the Shop and is leading them all in “Oh Holy Night.” The party breaks up and the Kavanagh’s go home as do their customers and workers. Tomorrow is Christmas but it won’t be a holiday like most years. It will be short-lived when reality hits and they all find out that Jack will be going off to war.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. The Manhattan Project establishes a base at Los Alamos, New Mexico to develop an atomic bomb. FDR becomes the first president to travel overseas by plane when he attends the Casablanca Conference with Winston Churchill. General Dwight Eisenhower is chosen as Supreme Allied Commander. The Pentagon building is completed. Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma opens on Broadway. The Jefferson Memorial is dedicated. The All American Girls Baseball League begins play. Christopher Walken, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Billie Jean King and Joe Morgan are born. George Washington Carver, Nikola Tesla and Fats Waller die.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Metalsmith 3rd Class Jack Kavanagh.

To read previous years, click the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents


One thought on “1943 Two Deaths and the War Reaches the Kavanagh’s

  1. As Always ❤️ It
    Thank you for continuing to educate us Joe . Especially ❤️ Your Dad’s early Story
    ❤️ Campanella n Bugle Field info too !


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