James Kavanaugh
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Memories of a personal struggle.  / Larry Kirkland (Reader)  Read >>
Memories of a personal struggle.  / Larry Kirkland (Reader)

I first became aware of James Kavanaugh when Walter Cronkite reported on the furor caused be A Moderen Day Priest Looks at His Outdated Church.  The Birth of God and Kavanaugh books of poetry and Celebrate The Sun shaped my personal and religious developement and made me a searcher. 

My search brought me back to my Christian faith.  Today I used the experience and struggles I went through with Kavanaugh begining over forty years ago  as I lead a Sunday School discussion at the First Baptist Church in augustusa GA.  The last time I used the writings of Kavanaugh on sunday morning was in a Unitarian Universalist Church over thirty years a go.  Music from the record by Bert Bacherach was in the background.

Even though my search led me back to my Christian roots I am still a searcher who feels the struggles that Kavanaugh wrote about as no other poet/writer could.


Memories too good to be forgotten  / Van K. Zannis III (Good Friend )  Read >>
Memories too good to be forgotten  / Van K. Zannis III (Good Friend )
 Yesterday I learned of Jim's passing . As I watched my father face  as he gave me this news I saw my dad overcome with emotion. I witnessed this rare occasion and once again realized something I had always known... how much my father loved James Kavanaugh and how fortunate I was to live in a home where Jim was a frequent guest for many years. 
My father and Jim spent quite a bit of time together and even at a young age I realized how blessed I was to be able to listen to these men speak about life . I will never forget spending family time and holidays with Jim and being at my fathers playhouse in Palo Alto and witnessing "Street Music" many times live and then making the trip to the performance in Beverly Hills . Walks discussions over many meals... spending time at the beach .
 Jim was always a kind and gracious person to me and though I had not seen him in many years I always thought of him and visited his many books to read and reminisce . It was natural that Jim was always considered family in our home . I am grateful for the time we shared .

              Van K Zannis III Close
JOY FROM SADNESS  / Ron Rubenstein (Friend and working associate )  Read >>
JOY FROM SADNESS  / Ron Rubenstein (Friend and working associate )
I had the privilege of collaborating with Jamie as a designer and photographer on several of his books; his album and one-man show There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves at the Mark Taper Forum (L.A.). His passion was matched only by his compassion for people and the world. We lost touch after the 70's and although I tried to locate him often over the years I was not successful in my efforts. Whenever I went into a book store I always headed to the poetry section to see if any new books were on the shelves which he had authored. This was my method of "keeping in touch."

I just learned of his passing and my wife Ilene and I are deeply saddened knowing he is no longer with us. The Lord has silenced him but his words will last forever. My search has ended but I am pleased to know he was sharing his days with loving people around him. His life was fulfilled by this.

Jamie was an inspiration to many and possessed an incredible talent which will never be replaced. I am honored to have known him; profoundly grateful to have worked with him; and appreciative to have shared a little part of his life with me and my family.

He was Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves...he Celebrated life to the fullest...he was truly America's poet...his Faces In The Cities he has visited will always be remembered...HE WILL ALWAYS BE MY FRIEND!

We love you Jamie and will miss you deeply.

Ron Rubenstein
Palm Desert California Close
From the wanderers  / John Bachman (Friend)  Read >>
From the wanderers  / John Bachman (Friend)

After years of enjoying his poetry, I first met Jim in the mid 80's in Dallas.  I had just quit my job and, with my wife, had hit the road to travel in an old van.  We stopped in Dallas to attend a reading Jim was giving.  I learned there that he was giving a seminar the next day.  I met Jim that night and exchanged a few words.  The next day we were headed out of town when  my wife, reading my mind, told me to turn around and go to the seminar.  I did and it was a life changing experience.  Jim became our friend and cristened us "the Wanderers" and called us that from then on.  We kept in touch and our paths crossed several times over the years.  If we were anywhere near where we knew him to be, we would seek him out.  Though we lost touch in the past few years, Jim was always there.  We knew that, when we were in contact again, it would be as always as if no time had passed. For knowing Jim was like that.  He was a presence in one's life no matter how separated by time or space.  I woke one morning last week and thought of Jim and decided to try again to find him if I could.  I did  a google search and that is how I learned of his death.  I am sorry I did not try  sooner but, as I said, he is with me always and I believe he knows that.  He was and is such a wonderful gift to me and to all of us.

Thank you, friend.


The Wanderers

A Gift  / Carol Forcier-Fredenburgh (Student)  Read >>
A Gift  / Carol Forcier-Fredenburgh (Student)

Was given to us in 1958 in the form of a wonderful intelligent teacher who at that time was also our priest but most of all was a man that taught us to think.  He opened our eyes to what can be and should be.  Little did we know at that time he was such a giving artist shaping words to poetry offering beautiful messages and illustrating everyman for us all to read.  I will never forget him nor the wonderful smile he gave so freely to us all.

Thank you for your poetry!  / Barbara Fairfield (Friend of Rene's and fan )  Read >>
Thank you for your poetry!  / Barbara Fairfield (Friend of Rene's and fan )
I discovered James Kavanaugh's poetry before I knew he and Rene had married. His poetry became a way of doing therapy with my clients when I took them on therapy retreat weekends. It was also a way into the minds and hearts of the men I work with. For this I am most grateful! Barbara Close
Rest, now, in the warmth of His arms  / Judy Daversa (none)  Read >>
Rest, now, in the warmth of His arms  / Judy Daversa (none)
My condolences to family and friends.  Rest in peace Jim.  Your labor is finished. Close
Memorial Comment  / Ann Minter (Reader)  Read >>
Memorial Comment  / Ann Minter (Reader)

I read James Kavanaugh's book "A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church" in 1967 when it first came out. It made a terrific impact on me as an intelligent young Catholic female. I have agreed with his thinking for years and am sorry he is now lost to others including his family.

May he rest in peace and may his family be consoled with happy memories.

A Lifetime isn't long enough to Love You  / Rene Reid (Former wife, 1974 - 1986 )  Read >>
A Lifetime isn't long enough to Love You  / Rene Reid (Former wife, 1974 - 1986 )

The following is a letter I wrote to Jamie back in September of 1998. We were together from 1974 to 1986. I hadn't seen him since then so writing to him was a step out of my comfort zone. I was writing in response to a letter he had sent me a year or two earlier. He visited me and my son, Chris, in 2002 and we have stayed in communication since that time. What I said to him more than a decade ago is so much of what I want to say now upon his death.

Dear Jamie,

I thought, if I began now, this letter might wend its way to you by the 16th in time for your birthday. I know you never celebrated them much but you know I always did. Over the years I have continued to remember your day, grateful that you were born and shared such a significant part of your life with me.

To begin I owe you an explanation for why I have been silent. It was not at all because of you but rather out of loyalty to my husband that I chose not to respond when you wrote. He always had deep, somewhat jealous, feelings about my relationship with you and, had I written back, it would have caused him pain. So what's changed? We are separated, soon to be divorced, and I am living alone at the house now. I have come through a great deal of sadness about it and am just turning the corner beginning to envision my life moving on in a new direction.

Writing has become a major part of my life over the past two years. The industry books are easy to do but my real passion is my own more personal work - like reflecting back about my life with you. I'm attempting to tell it as a story that exemplifies the crescendos and diminution of life and relationships. Believe me, this project has been more than therapeutic for me as I struggled with grieving the end of our life together.

So now I can tell you how glad I was to hear from you. Your last letter was filled with a range of emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other. That shouldn't be so surprising to me. Whatever kept us apart, we made up for in passion and strong emotions. It meant the world to me to have you say that I was a good wife. I have followed your life, somewhat, hearing things from time to time. The day I stumbled on your latest book "A Lifetime Isn't Long Enough to Love You" it was like walking down memory lane: Phil and Nina, Van, a dog named Sandy, your brother Bob, Uncle Jim, the day your Mother died, even Patty doing the cover photo. But when I happened on the poem "Always in my Heart" while standing in a San Francisco bookstore, a tear ran down my cheek. I knew, without a doubt, that poem was written for me.

I know you are still writing, that you spent some time in Mexico, and that you still love to wander - maybe not quite as much as before. You sound at peace with yourself and as happy as a melancholic Irish poet can get. Your poetry just keeps getting better. Sometimes I wish I still had an audio cassette of Street Music. Chris wore out the only copy I had. Chris is doing well...finally. He's 25 now and living in an apartment not far from me. He's in his last year of college and has been working the last four years at the homeless project I helped establish while I was serving on the County Commission.

Mom and Lin still live here in Reno. Mom has been working with me in the office this past year or so. She works mornings keeping our books, answering the phone, and managing the office at home. I really like having her near and I think she'll continue to do that for me. With Mark's daughter, Amy, working in the office with us, we've had three generations working together.... One of the things I miss most about the breakup I'm going through now is my sense of family. For one brief shining moment there was Camelot. I've had a real family with a husband-wife-daughter-son-dog-cat and parents visiting for Sunday dinner. It was everything I never had as a child and always dreamed of experiencing.

I started to send this to the Lake Bluff address but called first to discover you had moved...with no forwarding address - just like one of your poems of long ago described. So I hope this reaches you. It is important to me that you know how much you have mattered in my life. Moya Lear and I have stayed close and we talk about you from time to time. She was crushed over our breakup. But not nearly as much as I. The loss of you was almost unbearable for me. I was so vulnerable and needy at that time. I've gained a great deal of inner strength since those days working daily to be guided by my spirit in all that I say and do. My life is half over and I have so much I still want to do to make a difference. I feel like I've only just begun to figure things out. Now I want to share what I've learned and maybe help others discover better ways to live more meaningful lives. That's the underlying purpose of the book I'm currently working on.

Writing to you feels like no time has passed. I guess it is because you are so much a part of me and have been for the past quarter of a century. I am going to be spending time in Chicago over the next few months. I am scheduled to teach again at UIC sometime next semester. I would love to see you. Of course I'm presuming that you have stayed somewhere in the Chicago area. You may not be there. By now you could be living with the aborigines in Australia or with the pigmies wherever they live. But whatever part of the world you have chosen to call home, you will always be among the men too gentle to live among wolves.

I will always remember that day in May of 1974 when I walked up the stairs of the Dolores Street house and there you were standing at the top. My heart skipped a beat that instant when my eyes met yours and has never been quite the same since. I was in San Francisco last month and stopped by the house for old times sake. Some girls living in the downstairs unit were having a sidewalk sale and they took me through the house - even downstairs where the hot tub is. It stopped working years ago but they were dying to hear the story of how that came to be there. From that moment that we met I have always loved you and whether we were together or apart, I prayed that you would find peace within yourself. You are a very special man not just to me but to people the world over. I met a lady standing in line at the DMV here in Reno who had just moved from Chicago. She treated me like a celebrity because I knew you. Little did she know how well I knew you.

So I'll say goodbye for now, my friend. I wish you the happiest of birthdays. Even though you haven't heard from me, you must have known that I never stopped caring about you. Writing about our life together brings back so many memories. The good ones are the only ones I allow to linger in the gossamer threads that link my heart to yours. I love you, Jamie, and, like you, I, too, will always be grateful that you came into my life and into my heart. No matter what happens you will remain there forever.

With so much love,


Kavanaugh - In Celebration of You  / Martha (Marty) Baker-Jordan (friend)  Read >>
Kavanaugh - In Celebration of You  / Martha (Marty) Baker-Jordan (friend)

I discovered James Kavanaugh in the late seventies when I read "There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves," and my life was forever and ever changed. A few years later I wrote him a "fan" letter and, to my utmost joy, he responded. We met several times. We found that we shared much in common in growing up in ultra religious families and that were equally zany human beings and both in love with the written words of poetry. Of course he was the pro...I, while a professor of music and and an accomplished musician, was the amateur poet. He said he envied my musical talent - of course I envied his writing abilities. He, very kindly and lovingly, critiqued my feeble poetry efforts. We shared many fun and crazy dinners while he lived in Laguna Beach. On the eve of my first divorce when - in the aloneness of it all in spite of knowing I was doing the right thing - in desperation, I called Jim in Laguna. He was there for me on one of my darkest and alone nights of my life. For once in my life the exact right person was there at the exact right time. I shall always cherish that evening as well as all the other times I spent with him even though, as was his nature, he tended to "blow into town in a big flurry" and blow out in much the same manner on no timetable but his own! One of my favorites among his volumes of poetry is "In Celebration of You!" It has spoken to me for so many years and has enabled me to speak to many friends in a way that my own creations cannot...I wish I knew which book it is from but I do not, even though I own everything he wrote.... When you need to be reminded of what the special people in your life mean to you, try to find this poem. When you want to remember what James Kavanaugh was to YOUR life find this poem and read it. I sincerely believe it will speak to you and you will understand how and why your life would never have been as rich, deep, or the same without James Kavanaugh in it. Following is a poem I wrote shortly after meeting James Kavanaugh. He loved it and his laughter about it still resonates in my mind and heart. The Naming of a Friend "James" sounds too formal, impersonal, and pompous--- "Jim" is too dull and ordinary--- "Jimmie's kind of cute and a bit silly---which he kind of is. "Yet "Jimmie" is too cute and silly for me--- AH! but "Kavanaugh" says it all, so "Kavanaugh" it shall be for now and all eternity! I never knew he was called Jamie until I read the tributes on the various websites. I always called him "Kavanaugh" and whenever he would call I can still hear the words "Hi Marty - THIS is Kavanaugh!!!" He was a true life-force, the likes of which many of us will never see again in this lifetime. I was one of the lucky ones who met, knew, and loved him. A strong belief in my Jewish faith is: “We bring holiness into our lives not by entering a sanctuary but by acting to sanctify the everyday making the ordinary extraordinary!” From the book "To Life" by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner – page 71 (used by permission) The above truly personifies James Kavanaugh's life philosophy. How honored I was to know him personally...it is one of the most precious gifts of my lifetime. Lech L’shalom Jim--– May you go in peace.

A friend Dr. Martha (Marty) Baker-Jordan Professor Emeritus Piano and Piano Pedagogy California State University Fullerton

Remembering Jim's Passion for life  / Toby Anderson (long-time friend and producer of the stage play "Street Music" - a musical production of the Kavanaugh poetry )  Read >>
Remembering Jim's Passion for life  / Toby Anderson (long-time friend and producer of the stage play "Street Music" - a musical production of the Kavanaugh poetry )
In the early 70’s I was on a houseboat in Seattle attending a theater cast party when my host handed me “Faces In The City” with the book open to “Ode To A Relationship” and said: “You have to read this.” After roaring with laughter I said “If there is more like this there is a play here.”

And of course there was.

“Street Music” was a real labor of love and friendship. For those of you who never got to experience it imagine Jim—backed by a great rock band—sharing his philosophy his humor his integrity his passion--- in a two-hour stage adaptation of his poetry set to thrilling music composed by Darrell (Fetty). His joy and enthusiasm at being a part of every performance was infectious. We could have wished that more people were able to experience this expression of his work but those who did undoubtedly were touched to the heart. I’ll always remember: our audiences roaring with applause as Donny sang “Once I Felt Sorry For Jesus” Darrell moving us to tears with “The Man At The Corner Cleaners” the privilege of my being allowed to perform “My Easy God Is Gone” and---Jim having the time of his life a sly grin on his face reciting “Ode To A Relationship” as only he could; he had lived it.

There is so much to remember about him but the most meaningful memory that I shall carry with me is of course reflected in his own words:

“Of all man’s gifts
I admire passion most of all
Passion for anything…

I mean a passion that forgets self
And ignores time
Transforming expanding renewing
Unafraid of undoing whatever has been done…

It is curious about the whole world.”

That was Jim my dear friend.

Tobias Andersen Close
Remembering Jamie as my stepfather  / Chris Grove (stepson)  Read >>
Remembering Jamie as my stepfather  / Chris Grove (stepson)

My name is Chris Grove but throughout my school years until I was 18 I was Chris Kavanaugh. I remember the good times and the more difficult ones. It wasn't easy for Jamie to play a father role. Ironic isn't it since he was known as "Father" before we came into each other's lives when I was only one. I called him "Mimi" for the first few years of my life - it was the closest I could get to Jamie. When I got older, I remember sliding down snowy hills in an innertube in Nevada City. I remember him coaching me how to deal with the bullies on the school bus. In fact if you've ever read the poem "Little Boy Afraid of School" Jamie wrote that for me. I remember Mom giving Jamie and me matching vests one Christmas and when I sat on his lap I looked like the puppet Howdy Doody. We would look at each other and make each other laugh. Jamie could make me laugh. 

But he could also make me cry. His favorite expression was "knock it off!" And when he said it I knew he meant it. I remember one time when I was 7 we were at my Uncle Phil's house. Jamie told me to wait in the car but I got cold and tired of waiting - so I came in. Jamie said rather sternly: "I told you to wait in the car." Right in front of me Phil told him that he needed to lighten up with me. And he did. When Jamie was in the mood to have me around he was really fun and was a good role model. When I was a nuissance he was strict about sending me to my room. When he came home from work in the evening he wanted to have a drink and unwind with Mom. That's when I knew I needed to be neither seen nor heard. 

As I got older around 10 11 and 12 Jim related to me more easily. I love music and one of my favorite musical productions was "Street Music." Darrell Fetty and Toby Anderson had converted Jamie's poetry into music and a stage production. I listened to it over and over. I also began to read and appreciate Jamie's poetry. There was just one I didn't like. It was called "After the Divorce" and described Jamie's perception of me after my Mom and Dad divorced. It hurt my feelings but I was never able to tell him so.

All of that was more than 2 decades ago. Jamie disappeared out of our life for a long time and then we reconnected. It was just like old times. Fortunately he remembered only the bonding between us and not the times I was a bratty kid - at least in his mind. The last time I saw him was in 2002. He and Mom and I spent an evening looking through our scrapbooks and remembering the fun times. We told stories on each other. One of my favorites is the time that we went duck-hunting early in the morning. Jamie had a duck whistle and would practice his duck calls whenever we were in the car driving someplace. So he thought he was really good at it. This one morning we were in our duck blind and suddenly loud obnoxious duck calls were coming from somewhere. Jamie was so mad. "Those idiot hunters who don't know a damn thing about duck calling are going to scare the ducks away" he said. We sat waiting for the noise to stop. It finally did but the ducks disappeared too. All that noise and lousy duck calls . . .  were ducks!

Sometimes I was asked about my family and I got a lot of reaction when I explained that my Mom had been a nun and my Stepdad a priest. Not too long ago I attended the wedding of my Uncle Jim on my real Dad's side of the family. The daughter of the bride stood up and read a poem for her mother and new stepfather. It was "Will You Be My Friend?" I couldn't believe it. Neither could she when I told her afterwards that the author was my stepfather.

I remember talking to Jamie on his birthday a year ago. He had just been on a camping trip on Lake Michigan and was upset that he hadn't seen a bear anywhere. We talked about my grandparents and their positive impact on my life. He talked about how much he liked my grandfather because he was such a down-to-earth guy - like my stepfather I thought. When I think of Jamie the picture I have in my mind is of him walking around the house in his cowboy boots and underwear. I never saw that picture on any bookcover but it is the one I will best remember him by.

I hope you have your boots on Jamie with whatever else you wear in your life now. You were a good stepfather even though I didn't always understand you parenting style. I'm going to get a copy of Street Music from Darell so I can listen to it to my heart's content . . . and think of you.

I love you


Covering the real Jim in a Look Magazine article  / Robert Blair Kaiser (Long-time friend and reporter who covered a story on Jim after he left the priesthood )  Read >>
Covering the real Jim in a Look Magazine article  / Robert Blair Kaiser (Long-time friend and reporter who covered a story on Jim after he left the priesthood )
I first met James Kavanaugh in 1967 when LOOK magazine sent me down to San Diego to profile him because his book A Modern Priest Looks At His Outdated Church had hit the best seller lists. He was instantly likeable and he did the best thing that any celebrity can do for a writer: he was completely candid trusting me to make him come out “right.” Our definitions of “right” didn’t jibe. He wanted a puff piece I guess and I wanted to tell LOOK’s readers who Jim Kavanaugh really was – light side and dark side too. Aside from Jim’s caustic one-liners about the Church (which I assigned to his light side) and his funny stories about his life in the seminary (ditto) he came across as pretty damned cocky when for example I quoted him saying that Thomas Aquinas had nothing on Jim Kavanaugh. The most interesting thing about Jim's best seller: he put a sharp critical focus on things that needed changing in the Church but the Church is as dysfunctional today as it was then. If Jim was a prophet (in the Old Testament sense of the word speaking out against injustice) then his prophecy was more than a little bit ahead of its time.

He didn’t tell me he was pissed off by the LOOK piece. I discovered that a year or two later when I started dating a really cute young woman named Gigi who had had a short fling with Jim. She told me that Jim hated that article and hated me too. Then a few years later I ran into Jim at the Washington Square Bar and Grill in San Francisco. I bought him a drink. He bought me a drink. Soon he wasn’t hating me any more. He had achieved a good bit of literary success by then and that seemed to mellow him a lot.

He was a good pal next time our paths crossed this time in Reno when I was running the journalism school at the University and he was married to Rene (and serving as a darned good step dad to young Chris). We skied together and dined together at their home or at mine. And Jim talked to some of my journalism classes and starred – among a good many other media stars -- in a journalism conference I produced at Harrah’s. He was still candid (that was one of the things I (and almost everyone else) liked most about him and he didn’t seem to mind being candid about himself even about his own dark side. He knew we all had our dark sides; it was what made us human.

I can imagine him this morning New Year’s Day 2010 sitting in front of his heavenly TV with a beer in his hand cheering for every kid on every field with an Irish name – and every coach named Kelly too – with caustic comments about any ref who called a penalty on any one of those kids or coaches making every one of the angels and saints crowded around him laugh their heads off.
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