Robert C. Cavanaugh, 88, moving company executive


Robert Charles Cavanaugh, a retired moving company executive, decorated World War II veteran and former longtime Roland Park resident, died of complications from emphysema Monday at the VA Hospice Care Center in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 88.

Mr. Cavanaugh was born and raised in Scranton, Pa., the son of a banker. He moved to Philadelphia after his father died in the 1930s.

While earning a bachelor's degree at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, Mr. Cavanaugh was a member of the university's Mask and Wig Club for which he composed show music.

He graduated with honors in 1940.

"Bob worked his way through college playing with a dance band," said Carl E. Wagner Jr., a longtime friend. "He always loved music and played the clarinet. He had a dance band that played in Philadelphia and during the summer months played aboard trans-Atlantic ocean liners. That's how he earned his tuition."

He moved to Baltimore in 1940 when he went to work at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. plant in Middle River.

In 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces and after being trained as a gunner was assigned to a heavy bombardment group based in North Africa and Italy. He flew aboard B-24 Liberator bombers and participated in the historic raids on the Ploesti oil fields in Romania that supplied Nazi Germany with most of its oil.

Discharged with the rank of sergeant, Mr. Cavanaugh's decorations included the Army Distinguished Unit Badge and Cluster.

Returning to Baltimore in 1945, he began his business career with Monumental Security Storage Inc. as vice president of sales.

In 1954, Mr. Cavanaugh became chief executive officer and owner of the company and later added branch offices in Columbia and Salisbury.

In 1960, he moved it from its old headquarters in the 1100 block of Park Ave., where it had been since 1880, to a new facility at Windsor Avenue and Monroe Street. It moved again five years later to a new building on Druid Park Drive.

Mr. Cavanaugh, who retired in 1978, had been a board member and assistant treasurer of Allied Van Lines Inc., chairman of the National Warehouseman's Technical Foundation, president of the National Warehousemen's Technical Association and president of the Maryland Warehousemen's Association.

"As a businessman, he was dogged, and he handled a lot of work for the Baltimore Museum of Art," said Mr. Wagner, a retired insurance executive who had been a member of the company's board. "I bought Bob's services, and he bought mine."

"The company specialized in moving art, and he really loved that," said his daughter, Constance H. Cavanaugh of Palo Alto.

Mr. Wagner said his friend persevered despite many problems.

"Bob had a faith as deep as anyone I've ever known, and his faith kept him going through many deep personal crises," Mr. Wagner said.

In 1969, Mr. Cavanaugh joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and he was proud that he had achieved 36 years of sobriety, family members said.

"As a member of AA, for years he attended one meeting a day and sponsored others," Mr. Wagner said. "It wasn't unusual for him to be routed out of bed at 2 a.m. to go to a bar and help get someone home. He did this with great conviction and never talked about it."

Music remained a constant focus of Mr. Cavanaugh's life, and he enjoyed playing swing-era and big-band music with a number of groups in Baltimore.

He was a former member of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, Franklin Square Hospital Center and the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce. He also was a longtime volunteer with Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

Since 2004, Mr. Cavanaugh and his wife of 63 years, the former Katherine Hamilton, a retired Roland Park Country School art teacher, lived in Palo Alto.

A voracious reader, he enjoyed fiction, philosophy, religion and books about the Civil War.

He was a communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore, where plans for a memorial service to be held there next month were incomplete yesterday.

Also surviving in addition to his wife and daughter, are a son, Robert Neal Cavanaugh of San Francisco, and a grandson.

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