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Date of Passing: Mar 10, 2021

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(nee MESMAN)

Els Kavanagh, still vibrant and full of charm and wit, passed away suddenly on March 10, 2021, in Naples, Florida.
Els was born in Amsterdam and moved to Winnipeg in 1954 along with her family, leaving behind a war-torn country for a chance at a better life. She arrived in Canada with her mother, Elisabeth Maria (Bep), her father, Willibrodus Josef (Willi), and her two younger brothers, Hubert and Harry. At just 16 years old Els started working full-time to help the family get through those early years. Starting afresh she honed her skill of looking forward and remaining endlessly positive. She plunged into life in Canada, which included mastering the English language to perfection.
There were exciting days ahead in Winnipeg for Els as a member of The Winnipeg Badminton Club and the Winnipeg Canoe Club, where she won trophies and was considered for the Olympic canoeing team. It was at the courts of the badminton club where she was pursued and charmed by Kevin Kavanagh. Their marriage in 1963 launched the beginning of a formidable team. The affection they had for each other lit every room they entered.
Together they raised their family in Winnipeg and in Denver and spent amazing times with friends and family at Lake of the Woods and Naples, Florida. She imparted to her children, Sean and Jennifer and then to her grandsons, her strong values of family, learning, humour, and perseverance. All guided by her strong Catholic faith.
Els was intellectually curious and informed on many locally and international topics. Her bookcases were not for show and were filled with everything from politics, art and philosophy to the latest thrillers. She listened intently to others, hoping to understand various viewpoints.
She was an active and relentless supporter of dozens of organizations, including sitting on the boards of the Manitoba Arts Council, St. Boniface Hospital, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Manitoba Historical Society, The Catholic Foundation of Manitoba, St. Paul's High School, the Canadian Museum of Nature and CARE Canada. In Naples, she found inspiration and friendships through her participation with the Greater Naples Leadership and Naples Council on World Affairs lecture series. Els worked passionately interviewing families for Habitat for Humanity, helping people achieve the dream of having a home.
While Els pursued many interests, what meant the most was her family. She gave unwavering love, friendship, support and contributions to the successes of Kevin, her children and her grandchildren.
Just last week, Els played golf, swam every day, edited two of her grandson's university papers, attended mass virtually, participated in numerous ZOOM lectures and watched her beloved Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra perform. There is so much to say about Elisabeth Maria Kavanagh, affectionately known as 'The Bunny', but most of all, she was an example of how to truly live life to the fullest.
The immeasurable effect Els had on her family, friends, and community will continue to be felt by her son, Sean (Melissa Ridgen), her daughter, Jennifer (Hugh Moncrieff), and her grandchildren, Will and John Moncrieff. She will also be missed by her brothers, Hubert (Renee) and Harry, and her family members in Holland especially her cousin Thea Muller and the Bennett families in France. A very special thank you to Suzie Lount, Carole Abbott and Renee Quinn for all of their love and assistance this past week.
In lieu of flowers, donations can gratefully be made to Gonzaga Middle School, St. Paul's High School or the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
A private family service will be held.

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Mar 20, 2021

Condolences & Memories (8 entries)

  • Dear Sean and Jennifer, I stumbled upon your parents during my genealogic research only to find out both passed away very recently. I'd like to offer my sincerest condolence to you, your families and her remaining brothers and families. I did read Sean's most touching eulogy and understood how sensitive the war-years have been and she may not have told you a great deal about it. My father was a bit older (1922) and had the same restraint to talk about how he survived the war. I do have a quite complete family tree from your grandmothers' side up to where our lines join in 1743. I also noticed the house they lived in in Amsterdam is still standing. Perhaps you have all of this already, but might you be interested, I'm only on the other side of an e-mail. Best regards, Harry van Rijn Hoofddorp - Posted by: Harry van Rijn (distant cousin) on: Jul 29, 2021

  • Dear Jennifer and Sean, How sad we were to learn of your mother’s passing. As you might imagine, just thinking of your parents brought back so many memories of the good times we shared together and with the GWL family. Of course, Jennifer, Chantal and Marc Eric remember fondly your stay in Montreal with us. The Baillargeon family wish to offer both of you their warmest sympathies. Louise and Denis Baillargeon - Posted by: Louise and Denis Baillargeon (GWL ) on: May 03, 2021

  • Sean and Jennifer - A beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady. Your mom was always quick with a smile and friendly hello. My thoughts are with both of you at this difficult time. - Posted by: Madeleine Frost (Friend) on: Mar 24, 2021

  • Sean and Jennifer, I was so very sorry to hear about your mother's sudden passing. She was a force! Elegant and charming and always so interested in everything around her. I was always so happy to run into both your parents. The conversation was always interesting and they were always so attuned to whatever was going on in the world, and in my life and job. I will miss those chance encounters very much. My heart goes out to both of you. - Posted by: Margaret Redmond (family friend ) on: Mar 22, 2021

  • Jennifer and Sean, I only met your Mom a few times but she left an impression. I am so sad to hear of her sudden passing and know that my prayers will be with you as your navigate these next days and months. - Posted by: Ginny Thiessen (Friend to Jennifer) on: Mar 20, 2021

  • I had the great privilege of serving on the RWB board with Els. I'd known her before that but it was the RWB connection where I first truly understood what a remarkable person she was. Bright, grounded, sensible, yet with an artistic soul and a creative mind she brought common sense and sunshine to every meeting. I am blessed to have known her and privileged to have been among the legions of others who called her friend. - Posted by: Sheldon M Bowles (Friend ) on: Mar 20, 2021

  • Condolences to the family but especially to Hubert and Harry who I was more acquainted with. Please know I am thinking of all of you. - Posted by: Susan Hart-Kulbaba (acquaintance) on: Mar 20, 2021

  • So sorry to hear of your mother’s passing, I am certain she will be missed. My thoughts are with you at this difficult time. - Posted by: Amanda Sansregret (Friend ) on: Mar 20, 2021

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