In Memoriam: James Henry Cavanaugh

Rev. James Henry Cavanaugh died on December 17, 2017. His memorial service was held on January 20, 2018 at Pleasant Hill Community Church.

Jim was born in Springfield, MA in November 1933. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1955 (BA) and worked for five years in sales management for GE and the Armstrong Cork Co. prior to heeding a call to ministry. He graduated from Chicago Theological Seminary in 1964 (MTh).

Following seminary he served parishes in IL, NH, NY and MA. His two longest UCC pastorates were at the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College in NH, where he met his wife Pat and reached out to young people by establishing and leading two successful Coffee House Ministries. After serving there for eight years he accepted the call to The Groton Community Church in Groton, NY, where he served for 17 years.

Always deeply concerned for the welfare of those around him, while at Groton Community Church Jim served on the Board of Governors of the Groton Community Health Center, where he chaired the Personnel Committee, and was a member of the NY State Conference’s Homeless and Housing Task Force. He was a Founder and Director of the Tompkins/Cortland Habitat for Humanity Affiliate, the first Habitat chapter to be established in upstate New York.

Jim continued to put his considerable skills and compassion for others to work at Uplands Village CCRC, the Pleasant Hill Community Church – UCC and the Pleasant Hill Elementary School. He served for many years on the Uplands Board of Directors, on the PHCC Pastoral Relations Committee and on both the Uplands Human Resource and Benevolent Policy committees.

He was a much beloved aide for first-graders at Pleasant Hill Elementary School and delighted the children with stories of his connection to Dr. Seuss in Springfield, MA. As yet another way of giving back to his community, Jim also enjoyed working as a volunteer for the annual sales conducted by the Wharton Association and supporting its scholarship mission.

Never one to turn the spotlight on himself, this caring, compassionate, thoughtful and perceptive “gentle giant” of a man chose instead to shine his light on others. He was looked up to in so many ways by his colleagues, his family, and his many friends at Uplands, the church and the wider Cumberland Plateau, including the many Pleasant Hill students he faithfully mentored over the years. Teaching by his example, he leaves us all a roadmap for living more meaningful lives of service dedicated to lifting others up to a better place.