Celebrating life stories...



Memorial created 04-29-2006 by
A Friend
Maureen Bridget Cavanaugh
January 7 1955 - April 4 2005

Maureen was born in Golden Valley, MN, a suburb of Minneapolis, in January of 1955, the youngest of four children. She recently remarked to me that she had no memories whatsoever of this time period any more, not an indication of a failing memory, but rather that this was not a period of her life that she looked back upon nostalgically.

She spent the fall semester of her senior year (1971) living with a family in France, an experience requiring a great deal of self-reliance, and one that was the first sign of a passion for seeing new places and new things that she never lost.

I met Maureen in 1972 at Swarthmore College, seeing her for the first time as she and her roommates walked across the quadrangle in front of our college dorm with what appeared to be a giant rug for her room. She was a freshman, I was a sophomore. Our first real experience together was when I gave her a ride to the airport at Thanksgiving. By January we were inseparable, and remained so for the next 32 years.

The years from 1973 to 1980 were like a dream for us – in the summers during our college years we drove across the country visiting art museums and music festivals as breaks from reading and studying. Maureen graduated from college in three years, doing so for the incredibly generous reason that it would allow her to start graduate school at the same time as I did.

Our travel continued in graduate school, and we have forever marveled that on two graduate student fellowships of about $4000 a year each we managed not only to live, but to go to Europe for three weeks almost every year! We spent these next years at Cornell in Ithaca, New York, and were in an ideal environment. Maureen continued to study Latin, Greek and Ancient History, writing a master’s thesis on Horace, a Latin poet she first grew to love while studying with Helen North at Swarthmore, as well as with Gordon Kirkwood and Pietro Pucci at Cornell. She then “switched” to Greek History, in many ways inspired by Martin Ostwald (also of Swarthmore) with a dose of Archaeology, inspired by several sources: Russell Meiggs, a visiting professor at Swarthmore from Oxford who captivated her with his work on Roman Ostia (and which led to a wonderful day we spent at Ostia where Maureen brought the site to life!), Colin Edmonson of the American School of Classical Studies where Maureen spent a year as the James Rignall Wheeler Fellow, and Kevin Clinton of Cornell, who was studying inscriptions at Eleusis and suggested that she work on a new text of one of them. This resulted in her thesis, which was later published as a book: Eleusis and Athens: Finance, Politics and Religion in the Second Half of the Fifth Century, B.C. (1996).

Things started to unravel in the summer of 1979 when Maureen’s mother began a long fight with cancer, finally dying in May at the age of 57, with Maureen traveling home from Ithaca to Minneapolis every two weeks to coordinate her care arrangements and be with her on the weekends. Against this background, Maureen was lucky enough to find a teaching job at Middlebury College even so, and moved to Vermont. She also got her first Newfoundland, Halirock’s Tyche, from Joan and Roger Foster at that time.

She taught at Middlebury for two years, gaining a following for the Classics Department by introducing an archaeology class that had about the same number of students in it as all the other department courses combined. After two years, in which I was unable to find a “real” job, she gave up the position, an extreme personal sacrifice (another pattern that would repeat itself in her life several times), for a job at Pomona College in California in an effort to be in a place where we could both pursue our careers. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Her colleagues were openly hostile to her, the person who had hired her was on leave, and the climate in Southern California was a terrible shock to a person used to several feet of snow and temperatures below zero from December to March. At the same time, Maureen’s father and aunt, who ran a business in Minneapolis were experiencing deteriorating health and asked her to give up her career and help them. Once again, Maureen put herself behind the needs of others and gave up her career in Classics.

So we ended up in Minnesota in 1983 for what we expected to be a short stay, but ended up at 15 years, our longest time in one place. The first seven years were difficult: Maureen ended up spending a great deal of this period attending to the health needs of her father and aunt while also running their business in such as way as to allow them to think that they were still responsible for it. In retrospect, the impact on her that was caused by the responsibility to care for others and put off her own life would have a major impact on how she chose to face the final months of her own life.

We bought a farm, fulfilling a joint dream (although each of us thought it was the other’s dream), planted literally thousands of trees, and began to grow apples, raspberries and raise sheep and geese (while continuing to help out with the family business). Maureen took charge of the serious breeding and showing of our Newfoundlands, an activity that gave us a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction. She also started to grow orchids and took up scuba-diving.

In late 1991 Maureen was presented with an opportunity to re-examine her work on the Eleusinian inscriptions and jumped at the chance. She spent the winter of 1992 working at the Center for the Computerization of Greek Inscriptions at Cornell, and started revising her thesis for publication (by Scholars Press, which has since been acquired by Oxford). Unfortunately, this coincided with her first episode of breast cancer. It was made more difficult by the fact that the two of us were 1000 miles apart, and with limited ability to travel. Maureen successfully went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and spent several weeks at the end of the summer back in Greece re-examining the stone (on which the inscriptions forming the subject of her book were carved) and working in the library of the American School.

She returned to start law school at the University of Minnesota in the Fall of 1992. One of the courses she was most apprehensive about was tax, because she had been “taught” as a high school student that girls were not mathematically competent. In characteristic fashion, she plunged in anyway, and soon found herself in tune with a subject that “was more like Greek inscriptions than anything else in law school.” Maureen graduated magna cum laude and was all set to become the Clerk of the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Ann Simonette, when the judge was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to leave the bench. As a result, Maureen went straight to Coopers and Lybrand where she quickly rose to a Manager in the National Tax Practice. This was also a period when we were able to start traveling again, making a series of wonderful trips to the Netherlands (where Maureen got started bird watching as something to do while I had to go to a work-related meeting), Japan and Hong Kong, where we were captivated by the Asian culture (but also were in the only place we had ever visited where Maureen was not able to understand and speak the native language – another of her many talents).

In 1998, two years out of law school, she joined the faculty of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA where both her teaching and research were recognized with awards. Besides writing on a variety of areas related to tax: “Order in Multiplicity: Aristotle on Text, Context, and the Rule of Law,” where Aristotle’s writings were examined to show that they have been turned on their head by being taken out of context by current proponents of the “rule of law” such as Justice Scalia; “On the Road to Incoherence: Congress, Economics, and Taxes” which outlined how Congress abandoned common sense creating a favored tax treatment for both mass transit and private parking which ended encouraging the opposite effects on taxpayer behavior from Congress’s stated intentions; “Democracy, Equality, and Taxes” which examined the philosophical and political relationship between progressive income taxes and democratic governments, with a focus on Ancient Greece; and “Tax as Gatekeeper: Why Company Stock is Not Worth the Money” which highlighted the fact that tax benefits encourage companies (such as Enron) to provide their employees with undiversified portfolios for their retirement. During this period she also organized a Symposium in the Spring of 2000 entitled “Social Security: Can the Promise be Kept?” where many of the issues which are now in the forefront of the news, such as privatization of accounts, were discussed in detail.

While a good period for scholarship, the years at Washington and Lee were hard on a personal level – we were unable to live in the same house for most of the time because I (Chris) couldn’t find a job within 100 miles of Lexington. In 2000 Maureen had another surgery for cancer, and while successful, it brought a cloud back over her life. At the same time as Maureen was successful with dealing with her cancer, she lost one of her dearest friends, Joan Foster (from whom she had gotten her start in Newfoundland dogs and remained close to for twenty years) to cancer. It was also a period when we were once again able to travel and see new places, visiting Ireland, Egypt, Sicily, the Campagnia region of Italy and Rome.

In the Spring of 2003 Maureen was a visiting professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee. While there she had the chance to frequently go birding (after her day of birding in the Netherlands in 1998, she was hooked) along the Florida coasts, and in particular at St. Marks National Wildlife Sanctuary, where we literally saw thousands of birds, many of which were new to us. A rare treat came when we made a weekend trip to Southwest Florida looking for a few special birds. After searching several sites in vain for Sandhill Cranes, (in the pouring rain) we started back home only to find ourselves face to face with three of them standing outside a small horse pasture on a back country road. The rain had stopped and we got out walked to within ten feet of them and took some great pictures. That is the sort of incident I will always think of as quintessentially Maureen – you have tried everything, decided it won’t work, that you made a mistake to ever try, and then turn around and find exactly what you were looking for. Those of you who know about Maureen’s dog showing experience will recognize this as what happened when her dog “Dexter” won winners dog at the 1991 Newfoundland Club of America’s National Specialty, or when she won Best In Show with her first dog, Halirock’s Tyche in Thompson, Manitoba, or with “Pipen” at the 1989 Twin Cities Regional Specialty.

In the past year, things really seemed to finally to be falling into place for Maureen, and as a result for me. Maureen had joined Penn State Dickinson School of Law, she was excited about the opportunities of being part of getting a new campus established at State College, and I had helped create a teleworking program at my workplace which allowed us to live under the same roof (even if we went back and forth between two houses from time to time) for the first time in almost a decade. Maureen taught Individual Income Tax and a Tax Policy seminar, got great student reviews, and enjoyed her students immensely. We had a house in the picturesque town of Boiling Springs, which boasts a small lake with about a hundred geese and ducks on it (which we enthusiastically fed as if we were back on our farm) and the surrounding hills were filled with some of the most beautiful apple orchards you can imagine. Maureen had participated in a conference last April where she attracted the notice of New York Times columnist David Cay Johnston, which resulted in her being extensively quoted in one of his columns critiquing federal tax policy (“A Taxation Policy to Make John Stuart Mill Weep” NYT 4/18/2004). She followed this with a “fun” (her words) article on Private Tax Collectors, citing ancient sources from Greek drama to the bible, all of which uniformly paint a negative picture of privatizing tax collection (another proposal of the current administration).

She had struck up a relationship with an editor of Yale University Press after writing a book review for him this summer. Maureen was beginning a long term project to write a book on the history of taxation from Ancient Greece to the present day. Unfortunately, just when she was beginning her next section, Taxation in the Roman Republic and Empire, she was struck by a degenerative brain disease of unknown origin. A rare condition, that evidently afflicts about 250 people a year nationwide, there were no known treatments or even ameliorative therapies available. Maureen continued to teach, and did her best to get the Penn State VITA Program (an IRS sponsored program in which law student provide free tax preparation assistance to low income tax payers that she has participated in since 1999) going in January of 2005.

However, she was forced to give up teaching due to the sudden onset of significant symptoms of her disease. After a month of visits to doctors and many tests and scans, Maureen was given a grim diagnosis with no hope of improvement. She spent several weeks attempting to continue her research after that point, with decreasing success, and finally went to reading a book (or more) a day. She was good enough to let me spend two weeks with her going on day trips in March, at a time when she clearly did not feel well, but it did give us a chance to really spend good time together and talk about the wonderful life that we have had together.

And so, please remember Maureen as I do, with a smile on her face, a twinkle in her eye, and a thought in her mind that will surprise and delight us all.

Chris R Plum - husband


Candy and I knew Maureen from 1970 to 1971. We met at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts as student volunteers. This was where we all three met. We admired Maureen for her intelligence and warm smile. She always seemed to be in a race to be the best. Sometimes we felt this got in the way of enjoying life, but Maureen was a keen servant to knowledge. We were sorry to have lost contact with her, but fate did not plan on our remaining friends. Over the years we realized she enabled for us to discover our love since we shared Maureen as a friend. Thank you Maureen for the chance to meet our future spouse.

Dane and Candy Sorensen


Sitting:Vincent Standing: Maureen, Nancy and Delores


The Cavanaugh Family

Maureen was preceded in death by her mother and father, as well as one sister, Margaret, who committed suicide. Nancy (on MBC's right) her oldest sister is still living and hopes that Bridget is in the hands of God and enjoying eternity. Maureen also has an older brother, Michael, who is alive, and is seen in the framed photograph left of Maureen.

Michael is married to Zoe.  His son Charles died July 15, 2014 of cancer.  Michael was born in 1946.

Nancy cried when she heard of Bridget passing away. Within the family she was always referred to as Bridget. Sadly, the two remaining sisters had a falling out in the early 1990s. Although Nancy tried several times to reach out, Maureen kept her out of her life. Nancy continued to love her sister and took the news with disbelief and then with many, many tears. She has put together a large book of photos and letters and her thoughts about Bridget. It was her way of working through this sad juncture in life. On All Soul's Day, April 4, and on January 7 Nancy observes the day with respect, love and sadness. If only Maureen knew how much people loved her - it is sad to see that denied her.


Maureen raised and breed Newfoundland dogs which won National Awards. Photo is from 1985.


Maureen and her husband Chris enjoy the wonders of Greece. Her life was tied to Greek culture and language most of her life.

Chris was the one anchor in her life that shared her life until death severed them.

Chris wrote this last April 2006:

"I think in many cases she completely broke her life into independent chapters, and did not want to go back and reopen past ones. I know that when I suggested that we spend some time looking at photographs of past trips and so on once it became clear that she was in fact in a terminal state, she said no. I am left doing that now, and find myself continually in the position of realizing that I need to ask her many questions, for which I must content myself to never have answers.

Perhaps this is why she became so taken by the study of "The Mysteries" and the fact that the secrets of the ceremony of Demeter and Kore was never revealed."



 Maureen died in the afternoon at home on a Monday - April 4, 2005.

 She was cremated on April 6, 2005.

 A Memorial Service was held April 15, 2005 at Penn State University.




We breathe and smile at one another,
Glad for the company of family and lovers
To share the joy life brings to all hearts
While working and playing our short part
Sharing until breath leaves the quiet heart.
It is not our way for flesh to stay and stay,
Our wills do not control our bodies' fate,
Our genes dance and twist our youth away
And the dangers of life must have their say
Of death's end we can but hope to delay.
Once still they share not our mortal pain
No word or smile can we witness again.
From cremation's mill comes ash and haze
Now joining the wind's orbiting flight
To soar and float amongst cloud and light.
I breathe and they are breathless
I breathe and my lungs hold and gives
Much more than air within my ribs
I breathe and they are next to my heart
With every breath I take, we meet and part.





by a friend



Summer of 2005

For more photos of Maureen: www.conservativehumanism.com photo group 1

www.conservativehumanism.com photo group 2

www.conservativehumanism.com photo group 3


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