Eugene “Gene” Cavanaugh, whose cabaret shows drew both large LGBT and mainstream audiences to venues throughout the region for more than a decade, died late last month. He was 63.
Cavanaugh, a resident of Doylestown, performed at Tavern on Camac and New Hope’s Chez Odette’s and Bob Egan’s at the Nevermore, as well as the nearby Stockton Inn in New Jersey.
Although he performed mostly local shows, in 2006 he was a featured soloist at Carnegie Hall.
Cavanaugh launched his singing career at Odette’s about 15 years ago, a departure from his longheld career in sales.
For 40 years, Cavanaugh worked at the Record Shop in Cherry Hill, N.J., holding the positions of sales manager and audio consultant. He retired from the shop in early July.
Cavanaugh’s sister, Margaret Pendino, said her brother’s “love of music and love of people” fueled his lifelong commitment to the Record Shop.
“He loved to be around people and his job enabled him to meet so many people while he was selling music equipment and being in this venue that he just loved,” Pendino said. “He loved being able to talk about music. He really could tell you anything whatsoever about music, and this job enabled him to share that with other people.”
Cavanaugh, who died July 25 of unknown causes, moved in with Pendino and her husband Ray last year after spending most of his life as a resident of his native Philadelphia, where he attended Roman Catholic High School.
“We sold our house in Holland and all looked for a home together and found one in Doylestown,” she said. “We were very excited to be living together and building this new life. We loved having him with us.”
While Pendino said her brother sang his entire life, it wasn’t until the late ’90s when he summoned the courage to make his semi-professional stage debut.
Yet hHe didn’t take the stage to be in the spotlight: Many of his singing engagements were charitable.
“Anything that would help someone, he volunteered his time and voice for — benefits, concerts,” his sister said. “That’s just the type of person he was.”
He served as the vocalist at Memorial Day observations in Lambertville and Haddonfield’s First Night celebrations and lent his talents to innumerable fundraisers and events for the LGBT and HIV/AIDS community.
He performed at “Cabaret at the Cloisters,” a Mazzoni Center benefit hosted by board member Dr. Russ Harris, who called him an “extremely talented cabaret singer with an encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway musicals. With his superb voice, witty, heartfelt stories and unbelievable energy, Gene’s music carried audiences to new heights.”
While Cavanaugh’s generosity was evinced to the public through his participation in charity events, Pendino saw that quality throughout all facets of her brother’s life.
Cavanaugh was the third of five siblings and Pendino was the youngest, When their parents passed away, Pendino said her brother stepped in.
“My parents died when we were young and Gene basically raised me,” she said. “He was everything to me — my brother, father, best friend. He was the only constant in my life. He was always there.”
The same spirit that motivated Cavanaugh to look out for her in childhood stuck with him throughout his life, Pendino said.
“Whenever anyone needed him, he was there. I don’t think he even knew how to say no. He was honest, a true friend to everyone.”
Besides Pendino and her husband, Cavanaugh is survived by brothers Joseph and his wife Marly, Thomas and his wife Cheryl, and Richard, as well as numerous nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews and a close circle of friends.
Memorial contributions can be made in Cavanaugh’s name to Mazzoni Center, 21 S. 12th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.