FOR HALF a century, John (Johnny) Kavanagh from Grattan Street, Gorey, was associated with the sculpting of monuments in Wexford and beyond.
His passing on January 18 last, in the loving care of the Matron and staff at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, was met with deep sadness among those who knew and loved him. He was 65.
Son of Peter and Mary Kavanagh, he lived all his life on Grattan Street, Gorey. At the age of fifteen, he went to work for John Murphy at Convent Close and learned his trade. He spent 20 years there, before John Murphy retired. Johnny then leased the site for three years, before establishing his own premises at Grattan Street in 1982 where the family business continues today.
His work took him to cemeteries as far away as Dublin, Offaly, Waterford, South Wicklow and across Co. Wexford. While most of his work was concentrated in cemeteries, there was a period in his career where he was commissioned to work inside churches. He rebuilt altars in churches such as Ballyoughter, Castletown, and Tomacork when altars were brought forward so priests could face the congregation.
He was awarded a gold medal for his contribution to the Chelsea Flower Show in 2002, after being commissioned by Mary Reynolds to carve four stone thrones. Indeed, Prince Charles sat in one of these chairs when receiving a silver medal for his garden.
He took great pride in his work, and his reputation will live on for years. He worked up until two days before he went into hospital last August.
Johnny married Lila in August 1968. They were due to marry in July, but tragically his father died on the day they were to be married. He was a devoted family man, and loved his family. He enjoyed all family occasions and enjoyed having his family around him.
He had a great sense of humour and was always ready with a joke or witticism. He was a fine singer, and in his young years, he performed with Gorey Operatic Society, and still loved a good sing song on a social occasion. He had many friends around the town, and was very fond of the town and its people.
He liked to go on Sunday drives, and they often ended in a church or graveyard. He also loved to visit Hook Head. He was a train enthusiast. His father worked on the railroads, so his love for the railways stayed with him all his life. Three years ago, he got to go on the Mallaig steam train in Scotland, with his son Peter, and it was a highlight of the trip for him.
In latter years, he also got a passport and travelled to Paris, Prague, New York and other destinations and loved the experience.
Johnny is survived by his loving wife Lila, children Peter, Caroline, Malcolm, Lynda, Edwina, and Sonia, grandchildren, his sons-in-law, and a wide circle of extended family and friends.
His Funeral Mass took place on Sunday in St. Michael's Church, Gorey, and he was laid to rest in St. Michael's Cemetery, a place he knew so well. May he rest in peace.