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Joe Cavanaugh

Joe Cavanaugh

Mentor and Founder of Youth Frontiers

Born: Edina, MN, United States
Heritage: Irish/Italian American

Be good. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. Stand up for being good. Be respectful, generous, and compassionate to other people. All people are worthy of being treated with kindness and dignity. I would like to be remembered as a man that was good to his wife, daughter, friends and someone who tried to make the world a better place. Stand up for goodness!

Joe Cavanaugh

Mentor and Founder of Youth Frontiers

My name is Joe Cavanaugh. I was born November 29th, 1958. We lived on Woodcrest Drive in Edina. It was on Minnehaha Creek, by the woods. All of us in the neighborhood would be outside imagining things and making up games and playing outside in nature. After school at the bus stop, we would spend hours by the bus stop building forts in the snow. We were never in the basement watching TV. I loved growing up in my neighborhood. It was a good place to be.

My dad is Irish. He traveled a lot and worked hard. He would take the summer off so we had a lot of time together in the summer. My mom grew up in New York. She’s Italian and there weren’t a lot of Italians in Edina. She was one of the best cooks in Edina. She would have feasts and would cook all day. The house smelled like garlic.

Because of my size, I didn’t really shine in most sports in high school. What I was good at was wrestling. I became a really good wrestler. You didn’t have to be really big in size to be good at it. You wrestle your own size. I wrestled in college and went to the nationals my junior year. In high school I had a lot of friends. I didn’t have one clique. I had friends in every group.

I went to St. John’s University. I loved it up there. One thing it taught me is the importance of character and the importance of community and getting along with people. They taught you to treat people with respect. They taught you to treat people with goodness and kindness. They taught me the importance of being loyal and having integrity. These are values that are important to learn.

When I graduated from college, I was going to go to law school. Then the church I grew up in asked me if I wanted to be a Youth Minister. I loved working with kids. Law school became less important to me. Working with kids became more important. I learned that whatever I did in life, I would have to love what I do.

After seven years I decided to start Youth Frontiers. Youth Frontiers works with schools to deal with values and character traits like respect, courage and kindness.

The most important thing to happen to me is getting married to my wife Jane, my soul mate. At 42 years old I reconnected with Jane after 15 years. Very quickly we realized we liked each other, a lot. We got engaged and married a few years ago. Our friends were so excited because we were a perfect match. People liked us as a couple. We were friends first and we built our love relationship around that.

We wanted to have children and kids but it was difficult to make that happen. After five years we were told we couldn’t have a child. We accepted that and moved on in life. Then, all of a sudden we got pregnant. It was a miracle, really. Baby Tess was born.

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Honoring Joe Cavanaugh

Make It Better the Whole World Around

Make it better the whole world around
Everything begins right now!
Be good to yourself and to others, too
We haven’t got time to lose
Treat people well
when there’s nothing to gain
Stop what you’re doing
call out their name
Say hello
Don’t turn your back on them
If someone’s scared stand by their side
Be there for them, don’t run and hide
Sit down and listen
to what they have to say
There was a bully when I was young
In my school who made fun
Of people like me who were not very tall
It hurt my feelings, made me mad
Now when I see someone treated bad
It breaks my heart when people are mean
As you go walking down the hall
Stand up for good, brave and tall
With what you say, think, and do
Give respect to all you meet
Never hang your head in defeat
Stand upon what you know to be true
I cannot take your sadness away
But if you need for me to stay
I’ll be there to help you through
Just call me up when you get home
Whenever you feel alone
I’ll be there waiting to talk with you
I love my wife and my family
My daughter, Tess,
means the world to me
There’s nothing in life for them
I wouldn’t do
Climb a mountain or an iceberg
There’s so much in life to learn
Everything depends on me and you

Words by LARRY LONG with Katie Paulson’s 5th Grade class of Countryside Elementary
(Edina, Minnesota)

© Larry Long 2006 / BMI