Here is the obituary as printed in her funeral booklet. The family decided to print it rather than speak it, because a) we wanted to do her life justice b) many people find it hard to hear all that is said in a spoken eulogy and c) people can read it (and re-read it) at their own pace.
Betty Olive Cavanagh 9 Feb 1931 – 20 Jun 2018
Betty entered our world as the eldest daughter of Joseph Bede Hunt and Enid Noble in 1931. Her father at the time of her birth was a shunter with the NSW Railways. Bede's father was a blacksmith at Moorilda near Bathurst and Enid's father was an engine driver at Cowra.
When Betty was born, her parents were living at Enfield near the railway marshalling yards, very close to Enid's parents who were also by that stage living at Enfield. Bede then got a move to Bathurst, and for some reason Betty remained in the care of her maternal grandparents and maternal aunts and uncles. Perhaps the reason was that they didn't want to be parted from her, and all of us can relate to that! Perhaps there were concerns about the rates of tuberculosis in Bathurst.
At school with the nuns Betty was happy. With the Children of Mary sodality she received good spiritual formation and a devotion to St Maria Goretti.
Betty left school at age 15 and began work as a mail delivery person at Hodgson & Co. at Ashfield. From there she moved into admin, working firstly on a half-ledger and later on a full ledger, being promoted regularly until she was looking after the ledger accounts for a single commercial traveller and entrusted with face to face over the counter interactions with customers.
It was in this 'front of house' role that she was noticed by Robert Cavanagh (a.k.a. Toby) as he came in to deliver the mail. She was not interested, but he had seen how special she was and he was persistent. Upon discovering that she liked to go swimming, he made sure that he tagged along the next time she went to the pool with her relatives. Their first official date was soon after 'chicken in a basket' was a menu option and they had that and went to a movie, had a memorable day together and from then on the relationship blossomed. Toby won over Betty's
siblings and her Noble relatives, but her mother was a different story. Enid wanted someone with more prospects for her daughter.
It was in 1961 that Toby and Betty came to live in Umina Beach, and Toby began operating the first Woolworths store in the area. 50 years later Betty was given the honour of cutting the ribbon to open the new Woolworths store at Umina Beach.
Back in 1961 they attended Sunday Mass at the cinema at Ettalong until the Sacred Heart Church at Umina was opened in 1964.
In the mid-late 1960s Toby was working at the (then new) shopping centre at Grace Bros, Top Ryde until he was head-hunted by Jim Dickson to run and hopefully eventually own the mixed business in West Street, Umina. Such were the desires of this young family until ill health and the discovery of digestive tract cancer reduced his life span, coming to a close on St Valentine's Day 1969 after multiple surgeries and an extended stay in Hornsby hospital. This left Betty a widow with 2 growing children dependent on her, and the loss of their dream of building their own home.
She did not know how she was going to cope with the responsibilities that now rested solely on her shoulders. Benefactors like Dr Frank O'Brien assisted with the expenses of school fees, and the family stayed in rented accommodation until the owners wanted to sell the property, and then they moved into a holiday cottage at Umina Beach owned by Bede and Enid, where Enid's sister Madge was living at the time. Enid expected and received regular rent payments.
Sometime between 1968 and 1969, when Fr Michael McCarthy was around, she got roped into becoming the sacristan at Sacred Heart Umina, setting up vestments and vessels for regular Masses and funerals and doing copious amounts of ironing of sacred linens. He bailed her up against one of the walls of the school and said that the couple who had been setting up for Mass (presumably at the cinema) were getting on in years, and she was much younger. Even after the Sacred Heart Umina property was sold in 2007, she continued to assist in the preparations for Saturday morning and Saturday vigil Mass, and to take home linen corporals and purifiers to wash and iron right up to the weekend before her palliative radiation treatment started. This meant that she served at Sacred Heart, Umina Beach from soon after it opened until it closed.
Truthfulness was another virtue – but only supplied when the answer to the questions people asked her required it. Working out the right question to ask, now that was the hard part.
The evidence of the power of her prayers with God is impressive. God decided to answer the lengthy prayers of a mother concerned about the happiness of her son at the same time as He decided to answer the lengthy prayers of a lassie
seeking a good and holy husband in a way that a sequel to the Book of Tobit could be written. Then when the family wanted to put on a special celebration for her 75th birthday, she didn't want that at all, she prayed, and lo and behold a spot opened up for her to have a gall bladder operation requiring that her birthday be spent in hospital – a story to rival St Scholastica's. You noticed that stubborn streak did you? Good.
Because she knew the One in whom she trusted, her first recourse when any need presented itself to her was to take it to prayer. If there was a situation she wasn't happy with, she didn't add her opinions to the mix, instead she took them all in prayer to the One she knew could fix any situation. This made her an
unparalleled mother-in-law. This same quality made her the confidante of many, even of complete strangers who would sit next to her on the bench while she waited for the rest of the family to complete their grocery shopping.
Her other special ministry was liturgical in nature. Daily missal in hand and with clear voice she would take her part in saying the Entrance and Communion antiphons at Mass and in making sure the Lamb of God prayers were begun at the right time. She was the go-to-gal for anyone unsure of which set of Proper prayers or set of readings was the correct one for that day's Mass. With unfailing patience she got everyone who turned to her for help onto the right page. Each morning she took part in the Morning Prayer of the Church, and frequently joined in the
communal recitation of the Rosary after daily Mass.
It took these difficult final weeks when her strength was fading to uncover just how good and patient a listener she must have been for her many friends over the years because a pattern became apparent that most of them had the 'gift of the gab'.
Her lifetime of 'offering it up for the holy souls' and understanding of the value of 'acts of mortification' bore fruit in the way she gently accepted the increasing bad news about her health and squarely faced all the medical tests and treatments recommended, as well as her increasingly larger dependence on nursing assistance.
Up until 31 May 2018, the diocesan patronal feast day of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, she was at morning Mass every day, but from then on the decline in her health began in earnest.
May God grant her a merciful judgment and an extraordinary reward. Amen.
Her friend, Beverley, wanted to say something at Betty's funeral, so I promised her that I would put it online instead:
A voice rings out in the Church. It is the voice of Betty Cavanagh. She is saying the Entrance Antiphon Prayer as Father is walking in to our Church for Morning Mass. We join her but only a few have a missal. Betty also says the Lamb of God prayer after the Lord's Prayer and I join her in the Communion Antiphon. She is my mentor and my friend. For ten years she has been guiding me along God's path. There is so much she knows about the Church Year and often she would turn around to see if I had the right page. Her seat, in front of me is empty now, and I miss her, especially our hug.
My dear friend, au revoir.
The homily at her funeral, which I have no hope of doing justice too, was given by a former parish priest, Dr John Hill, and he spoke about how only the strong are able to be meek, and how only the strong are able to forgive, and how those that the world doesn't give a second glance to are most precious in the eyes of God - because their whole intent is on pleasing Him.
Some year's back, the parish priest at the time devised a form for parishioners to fill in so that the parish had a record of their wishes for readings, hymns, internment, funeral options etc, and the back page had a biographical section.
Betty filled out the front page, and the back page, but could never decide which readings and hymns she wanted.
We found that back page after her death, and include it here because it is in her own handwriting and in her own words:
The first reading from the prophet Micah, about the simple things needed for us to please God, had been a family favourite and reminded us of the direct simplicity of Betty's relationship with God.
The psalm, Psalm 94(95), is the one Betty prayed every morning in the Prayers of the Church, a.k.a. the Divine Office.
The second reading from St Paul's letter to the Philippians was for the feast day of St Romauld, 19 June, and was read for Betty at her last Holy Communion, when it felt so completely apt for that moment.
The Gospel from St Luke is about the holy people in the Temple who waited for the Messiah, particularly the woman who was widowed young and spent the rest of her days serving God.
Hymn-wise, 'Gentle woman, quiet light' is as good a description of Betty as it is of Our Lady, as she definitely tried to live out her consecration to the Mother of Jesus each day, and that became the opening hymn.
Betty loved the hymn Panis Angelicus, especially when Lyn Dwyer sang it, so that was an obvious choice for Holy Communion, and was followed by a favourite of many, Soul of my Saviour, as the post-Communion hymn.
Betty liked that at Nina's funeral on 30 May 2018, a good friend of hers, they had the Salve Regina (Latin version of the Hail Holy Queen) as the last hymn, and we liked it too. It is also the anthem to Our Lady that closes Night Prayer for people around the world, and what the priests of our diocese sing as their final farewell to one of their own.
Here's a copy of the funeral booklet, if you would like to read them in full: