Kathy Cavanaugh

November 25, 1942 ~ February 11, 2022 (age 79)


Kathleen (Kathy) Joy Cavanaugh was born on November 25, 1942 in Webster, South Dakota to Sherman and Olga (Folkestad) Cavanaugh. She was baptized in the Lutheran Faith and confirmed at Zion Lutheran Church, Andover in 1956. At the time of her death was an active member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Benson, MN. Kathy attended country school for 8 years in Day County District #29 and graduated in 1960 from Pierpont High School. She continued her education at SDSU, graduating in 1964 with a BS in Nursing. It was also that year that she was crowned SDSU Rodeo Queen and was a member of the Girls Rodeo Team.

After graduation, she pursued her nursing career with her first job at Memorial Hospital in Watertown, SD. During that summer, she fulfilled her duties with the SDSU Rodeo Team participating and taking 3rd at the National Finals in Wyoming.

From there, Kathy joined some of her fellow college classmates and worked in the OR in Denver. Wanting to explore something more, she moved to Spokane, WA and then to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX. A family injury brought her back to SD to assist in the farm duties and she returned to Memorial Hospital OR for the summer and then moved on to her career in Public Health taking a job in Benson, MN in 1970. Kathy moved to DeGraff in 1972 with some horses and later her donkeys. She continued showing horses and became an active horse show judge for WSCA judging shows all over the area for 16 years. In 1990, Kathy fell in love with miniature donkeys and kept a herd at her place.

It was during her time there that she developed what became Countryside Public Health Service. During her leadership, the counties involved started programs such as: WIC, Public Immunization Clinics, local control over the licensing of Food, Beverage and Lodging established; funding for first responder medical teams throughout the areas, Early Childhood Screening programs and home delivered meals. She “retired” from public service after 20 years to explore other interests including Meeker County Group Homes and REM Health in Willmar. Kathy then became the Medical Administrator for the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton where the medical services for the prison were developed. From there, she ventured into working with some railroads and did some private medical management for the Red River Valley RR in ND; TCE RR in Glencoe and the Canadian RR system based in Detroit. All the time, working from home. Finding enjoyment working with the RR, she then began work for a company out of Boston that serviced the BNSF RR as well as several short lines. Kathy continued that work until she retired for good in 2011.

Having time to pursue other interests, she enjoyed traveling to far off lands for Adventure Trips, first with her church to Greece, Turkey, East Germany to visit Luther Land; then to Africa where she found a love for wild animals. Kathy returned to Africa several more times and most recently had traveled to Nepal to visit the Himalayas and for trekking in the mountains, riding elephants, ect. In her spare time, she also loved the game of golf.

Preceding her in death were her parents. Kathy is survived by her brother, Rodger (Jan) Cavanaugh of Neenah, WI, her nephew, Cody (Jessica) Cavanaugh of Neenah, WI and great nieces and nephews: Grayson Vollmer, Coehn Cavanaugh and Lyra Cavanaugh.

Kathy passed away February 11, 2022 at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar, MN. Services are planned for a later date in Benson with inurnment to follow in South Dakota.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Kathy Cavanaugh, please visit our floral store.


You can still show your support by sending flowers directly to the family, or by planting a memorial tree in the memory of Kathy Cavanaugh
© 2022 Paetznick-Garness Funeral Chapel. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS & TA | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Accessibility