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Friends honor Monica Cavanaugh, 'Butte's own Irish ambassador'
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Friends honor Monica Cavanaugh, 'Butte's own Irish ambassador'


There are three things you need to know about Monica Evans Cavanaugh.

First and foremost, she adored her family and friends. Second, not only did she embrace her Irish heritage, she embodied it. Lastly, she was proud of her hometown and to any and all, would happily, and at times fiercely, declare she was from Butte.

Tuesday night, there was laughter, there were tears as family and friends gathered to say good-bye to Cavanaugh, Butte’s very own Irish ambassador.

Located on the southwest coast of Ireland, the Beara Peninsula was the birthplace for many of Butte’s Irish immigrants.

The long-time owner of Cavanaugh’s County Celtic in Uptown Butte died Tuesday morning following a long battle with cancer. She would have enjoyed the impromptu Irish wake held in her honor and most definitely would have been singing along with the rest of the gang.

“She was the heart of Butte’s Irish community,” Danette Harrington said of her friend. “She will be deeply missed.”

Indeed, Cavanaugh will be missed.

“More so than a lot of people realize,” said Tom Powers. 

According to Powers, Cavanaugh not only promoted the Irish festival, An Ri Ra, but other Butte festivals and events as well.

She was also a steadfast promoter of Irish singers and bands, including Butte’s own Dublin Gulch, of which Powers is a member.

“She sold hundreds and hundreds of our recordings,” explained Powers.

Harrington wholeheartedly agreed, but added vendors to the equation as well.

“Every Irish vendor in the world will be mourning her loss,” said Harrington. “She had more contacts than anyone I know.”

A perfect example of the admiration and love others felt for Cavanaugh happened just this past Monday when Gregory Grene, lead singer of The Prodigals, called.

The popular Irish American band had performed at An Ri Ra not just once, not just twice, but three times — in 2006, 2010 and 2017.

Over the phone, Grene sang a song to his friend and when he concluded she simply said “beautiful.”

Cavanaugh looked forward to the Irish festival each year. In the months leading up to the event, she would field calls from performers across the country and Ireland, too.

According to Lori Maloney, Cavanaugh captained the An Ri Ra ship and through her leadership, helped to sell many of the featured musicians’ music.

“Monica was our biggest cheerleader,” said Frank Walsh, a member of the festival’s executive committee.

Cindy Powers can attest to that.

She and Cavanaugh met many years ago at Powers’ adult Irish Ceili dance class. The friendship flourished.

So much so, the two attended an Irish festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The duo was watching the Trinity Irish Dancers when Cavanaugh, looking at their costumes, turned to Powers and said “we can make that.”

Copying the design, Cavanaugh did just that and with yards and yards of blue velvet, she completed the project.

“I shudder to think what Butte would have been like if we hadn’t had Monica,” said Cindy Powers.

In August 2019, Cavanaugh was already fighting cancer when the last An Ri Ra was celebrated. That didn’t stop her from running her own booth at the Original.

“She would have loved to be cloned,” said Tom Powers, “and enjoy everything without being tied to her shop.”

Maloney remembered well the 2019 An Ri Ra and the deluge of rain that fell that Saturday.

As Maloney recalled, Monica’s son Cody was selling hunting covers in his mother’s booth and as the rain began to fall, he grabbed a couple of the covers.

“We got her out of the rain, put her in a chair, wrapped her up in those covers, and gave her a shot of Jameson’s,” said Maloney. “She just sat there and smiled.”

Cavanaugh loved her store, which she opened 20 years ago.

Last year she told The Montana Standard that her journey into retail had been well worth her time.

“If you put your heart and soul into something, you can make it work,” she said.

Well, Cavanaugh did make it work. Her store was patronized by locals and visitors alike.

“Any number of us would tell you that she had the best Irish store ever,” said Maloney.

That she most certainly did and it was a source of pride for the Butte woman.

Through the years, Cavanaugh’s became somewhat of a clubhouse for Butte’s Irish community.

“When you went into her store for any purpose, at any time,” explained Tom Powers, “you would likely end up in the back having a shot or a beer.”

Two years ago, a lifelong dream came true for Cavanaugh when she, along with her husband Jake and 15 or more assorted friends, made a pilgrimage to Ireland.

“It was surreal all of us being there,” said fellow traveler Mary Walsh.

Walsh recalled that anyone Cavanaugh met on that trip, she kept ties with.

Not one to sit, Cavanaugh was determined to take in the sights.

“She never got tired and never just sat on the bus,” marveled her friend, Marlene Telling. “The minute the bus stopped she was up, out and going.”

As the temperature dipped Tuesday night and the winds turned brisk, Cavanaugh’s friends concluded the night with some tunes. That seemed fitting, given her love for Celtic music.

One song, The Parting Glass, seemed suited to Cavanaugh, particularly these two excerpts:

Of all the comrades that e'er I had

They're sorry for my going away

And all the sweethearts that e'er I had

They'd wish me one more day to stay

But since it fell into my lot

That I should rise and you should not

I'll gently rise and softly call

Good night and joy be to you all.


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