This post is a tribute to a man who was a great mentor to us, a giant of a man whom I loved like a father. He went to heaven last week. Fortunately we were home in Mississippi at the time so we were able to go pay our respects to his family. If you didn’t have the privilege of knowing Hugh Kavanagh let me introduce him.
Mike and I, we are retailers. Have been for 40 years. Brick and Mortar. The real deal. We spent a bunch of those years doing business in the back of an old downtown Biloxi institution called Austin’s. We owned the shoe department. Rhonda Clower ran it and kept it balanced to the penny while we ran our other operations. When Rhonda wasn’t there I worked that department. Hugh Kavanagh managed the main store. We leased the shoe department. That is how it was done in those days. No social media, no Amazon. Every woman in town that needed new digs came into Austin’s and we outfitted them. Hugh and the girls dressed them and we put shoes on their feet. Pretty simple. Wish it were still so.
Those are the years I grew to know and love Hugh. He was fair, funny, friendly, financially frugal, and final in his decisions. He was a man of integrity. In the long line at his funeral Mike and I overheard a man say “I didn’t realize Hugh had such a big reach.” That’s exactly what he had, a big reach. Every woman in south Mississippi knew Hugh from Austins. Plus he and Ann raised six kids. That’ll give you a reach in life.
In the early 90’s fate brought Hugh’s wife Ann into our lives and our business. The perfect match for this sweet and simple man was the rock of his household, Ann. She is one of the most important people in my life. My heart breaks for her to have lost her Hugh.
Hugh went to Heaven in very good company last week. George H W Bush is in his “recruiting class”! Two giants have left this earth and both leave a big hole.
I have always loved the song “Friends” by Michael W Smith and when it was sung by him at Bush’s funeral today I found myself wiping away tears. “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them. ” I’ll miss Hugh asking how our inventory levels are looking. Asking if we are fully stocked to do the business. I’ll miss him checking up on our margins and inquiring about our goals. But I know he’s looking down on us from a place where there is an understanding that being a retailer is more than numbers, inventory and margins. It’s a calling to be present to people and meet their needs in a humble manner with Christ in your heart. That was Hugh and I pray when I finish this race I can have the type of reach that he had. May we always remember Hugh. I guess, as it has been said, old retailers never die, they just get marked down!
Sadly another giant of a man passed away this week. Our own Dana ( Ocean Springs manager) lost her Dad, the man who was her world. Bill Darnell, Mr Billy, died suddenly with no warning or word of farewell. Our hearts break for the family. We will be heading back to the Gulf Coast from Hilton Head again, earlier than planned, in order to pay our respects and help at LEE TRACY for the season. I guess we all need the reminder to love more freely, hug more tightly, and be more present to the ones we love in this world because we never know when they will be called to the next.