Born in Brooklyn in 1926, Kavanaugh has seen many remarkable things happen in her lifetime. As a child she lived within earshot of the Halsey Theater and saw a young Jackie Gleason perform there. In fact, she saw him say “And away we go!” live on that stage years before he would become famous for the line.
During World War II, Kavanaugh worked at a war plant drilling and milling parts for airplanes - a true to life Rosie the Riveter - and later on worked in a section building radios for our soldiers.
Later in life, Kavanaugh would move to Woodhaven with her family where she says she spent the happiest years of her life. She volunteered for many years not just at one school in Woodhaven, but two, first at PS 60 and then at the St. Thomas the Apostle School Library.
On top of all her selfless support of others, Kavanaugh has one additional gift she has been giving to our community over the years – her talent as a wordsmith and poet.
Kavanaugh wrote her very first poem for an Easter card in second grade. She can recite it from memory, over 80 years after she wrote it in Class 2B in Bushwick:
“Easter Day is almost here, everyone is full of cheer, when they see their Easter Bunny, they all laugh and think it’s funny!”
The first time she read one of her poems in public came a few years later when Mrs. Schuster, her eighth grade teacher, asked her to read a poem in front of the entire school. Mrs. Schuster, herself an enthusiast of poetry and Shakespeare, saw a spark of talent within the young Kavanaugh and she encouraged it to blossom.
Kavanaugh was nervous speaking in front of a large crowd of her peers, but the excitement of being chosen helped her get over that. “I was very honored that she liked my poetry,” Kavanaugh told me, saying that ever since then she has been writing publicly.
“In high school, I wrote poetry for the Bushwick Bulletin, and from there I entered contests and submitted poems to newspapers,” she added.
Kavanaugh has even seen her work published in is this very paper, which published over 70 of her poems between 1983 and 1995. She was also a frequent contributor to The Queens Times and has published several volumes of her work.
One collection of poems, “Poems & Lyrics For All Seasons & Reasons,” was selected for an award by Writer's Digest.
Speaking with Kavanaugh and reading her work, you do not have to look far to see where she gets inspiration for most of her poems: family. She speaks very fondly about her parents, noting that most people are lucky to get one great parent, but Kavanaugh was lucky to have two.
In her collection of work, you will find family poems such as “Rest in Peace, Dear Mother of Pearl” (after the death of her mother, Frances), and “Going Off to College” (for her grandson Jimmy.) And you will find several poems for friends on the occasion of their birthdays, retirements and other memorable events.
You will also read about our life and times when reading Kavanaugh’s work, with several poems concerning the events of the day, such as the death of Princess Diana, the terrorist attacks of September 11, and the devastation of AIDS.
Rose Kavanaugh has put together a remarkable body of work over her lifetime and we have been honored to have her serve as secretary of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society these past 22 years.
“She does a remarkable job,” says Leonora Lavan, president of the WCHS for 20 years. “She makes it look easy, and everyone absolutely loves her.”
As the person who succeeded Leonora for the WCHS, I wholeheartedly second that opinion.