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Annual reunions keep family close-knit.

Byline: Sandy Quadros Bowles

SHREWSBURY - It all started with one Worcester couple.

Three generations later, they need the space at St. John's High School to accommodate the family of James and Mary Ellen (Kerrins) Cavanaugh, who were married 90 years ago.

The Cavanaugh family reunion, held July 17, united about 170 of the now-deceased couple's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and their spouses.

Mary Ellen Cavanaugh would be pleased, her daughter Claire Cunningham of Worcester said.

"My mother really wanted us to stay in contact with each other,'' she said.

Her mother inspired the family reunions. The first one, in 1969, drew 68 people. One week later, Mary Ellen Cavanaugh died.

"Obviously, we were pleased we had done it,'' Mrs. Cunningham said.

Following in the tradition, every 10 years, the Cavanaugh family hosts a reunion. With the elder Cavanaughs gone, their 10 children have become the family's senior members. All of the eight surviving siblings attended this year's festivities.

These eight brothers and sisters still live in the area and meet monthly for lunch, Mrs. Cunningham said.

Their children, the grandchildren of James and Mary Ellen Cavanaugh, are more scattered geographically. Those attending live as far away as Illinois, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Utah, Michigan, North Carolina and Sun Valley, Idaho.

"Families are important,'' Mrs. Cunningham said. "We wanted them to know each other.''

Ages of those attending ranged from 9 months to 87 years.

The July 17 reunion featured picture-taking sessions, lunch, dinner and displays of each branch of the family. A family Olympics, for the children, took up much of the afternoon. These events include such traditional activities as sack races, tug-of-war, wheelbarrow races, three-legged relay races and volleyball.

Having these activities for the children gives their parents a chance to relax and socialize and allows the kids to have fun getting to know each other better, said Fred Beauregard of Northbridge, one of the "nephews,'' who oversees the Olympics.

Members of the family who are no longer living are remembered. A Mass was celebrated in their memory July 18 at the family parish, Our Lady of the Angels in Worcester.

Eileen Pederson proudly displayed memorabilia about her father, Edward Cavanaugh, who was killed July 29, 1971, in Vietnam. He was one of five full colonels killed in the war. Col. Cavanaugh was one of the 10 children of James and Mary Ellen Cavanaugh.

His memorial plaque and sign are located at the entrance to St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester. Ms. Pederson now lives in Gaithersburg, Md., but she said she still feels connected with her childhood years in Massachusetts.

Col. Cavanaugh raised his five daughters to value duty, honor, God, county and family, she said.

"We've always recognized the importance of family,'' she said. At the reunions, "it's as if we've never been apart. It's that bond we can always rely on."


CUTLINE: (1) An old photograph of the original Cavanaugh family is displayed near the reunion guest book. (2) Youngsters look over the historic photos at the Cavanaugh family reunion held at St. John's High School. (3) Emma Davids of Indiana and Madison Cavanaugh of Florida. (4) From left, Eileen Pederson of Maryland, Michelle Horan of Shrewsbury, Maeve Sheehan, 11, of Chicago, and Pat Easterly of Acton participate in a Cavanaugh family trivia contest. (5) Ethel McMahon of Worcester holds 9-month-old Megan Elizabeth Cavanaugh of Hopkinton.

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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 29, 2010
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