90 years spent in verse
by Ed Wendell
Oct 04, 2016 | 4203 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rose Kavanaugh is joined at her birthday party by Joann Cataldo, a longtime friend and fellow member of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.
Rose Kavanaugh is joined at her birthday party by Joann Cataldo, a longtime friend and fellow member of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.
slideshow
Rose Kavanaugh gets some help from her great-grandchildren blowing out the candles on her 90th Birthday cake.
Rose Kavanaugh gets some help from her great-grandchildren blowing out the candles on her 90th Birthday cake.
slideshow
In October 1926, the world was still stunned by the sudden death of Hollywood sex symbol Rudolph Valentino. Boxer Jack Dempsey lost his championship belt to Gene Tunney in front of 120,000 spectators. And Calvin Coolidge was the 30th president of the United States of America.

Meanwhile, here in Woodhaven Dan’s Beauty Parlor of 94th Street, which boasted that they had “The Latest in Permanent Waves,” was going out of business. Dan's would soon be replaced by Schmidt’s Candies, which just ended their annual summer hiatus to begin their 90th year of business.

The year 1926 also saw the birth of longtime Woodhaven resident Rose Kavanaugh, who celebrated her 90th birthday with friends and family this past weekend.

As a child, she lived within earshot of the Halsey Theater in Brooklyn 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 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 at not one school in Woodhaven, but two, first at PS 60 and then in the St. Thomas the Apostle 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.

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 to speak 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 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.”

Kavanaugh has even had her work published here in the Leader-Observer, which published over 70 of her poems between 1983 and 1995. She has also published several volumes of her work, and one of her collections, “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. We look forward to the poem she writes in honor of her own 90th birthday. Get started on that, Rose!

Rose has been a member of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society since its inception in 1992, serving for many years as its secretary. She hasn’t been to many meetings lately, but she told me that she misses all of the members, that she loves them all and that she loves Woodhaven.

The feeling is mutual. Happy Birthday Rose!

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