Former Edmonton mayor Terry Cavanagh dies at 91

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WATCH ABOVE: Terry Cavanagh, who spent 27 years on city council and twice became mayor of Edmonton, has passed away at the age of 91. Gord Steinke reports – Dec 19, 2017

Terry Cavanagh, who twice became interim mayor of Edmonton and served decades on city council in Wards 4 and 6, has passed away at the age of 91.

Cavanagh, whose name a new southwest Edmonton community bears, was born in Edmonton on July 19, 1926, according to his biography on the City of Edmonton’s website.

In 1968, he ran for council for the first time and lost. But he was elected in 1971 and re-elected in 1974. A year later, mayor Bill Hawrelak died and city council appointed Cavanagh as his replacement.

During his time at the city’s helm, the Hotel MacDonald was designated as the city’s first municipal historic resource and was saved from being torn down.

Jim Taylor served with Cavanagh through two terms until 2001. He says Cavanagh was always a gentleman and put everyone at ease.

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“He was fantastic that way with people. Everybody loved to deal with Terry. He never had a bad word for anybody.”

“One of the things you do as a city councillor is you spend time in the community and go to events and he excelled at that. Terry went to all kinds of events and of course the joke always was that Terry could say certain things in many different languages. ‘Vote for me’ was the big one,” Taylor recalled.

Robert Noce said his colleague Cavanagh always brought business acumen to debate.

“He was balanced, he recognized the importance of creating a strong economy but he also recognized the people aspect in any of the decision-making process,” Noce said.

“He had just the right image of a city councillor: respectful, forward-thinking and always did what was right for Edmonton,” he said.

“Terry Cavanagh has the distinction of being the first Edmonton-born mayor, and he would always remind Bill Smith of that fact — that Bill was not first.”

Cavanagh lost in Edmonton’s 1977 election before serving as chairman of the Provincial Rent Control Appeal Board and as a public communications advisor for Alberta Energy Company Ltd.

Cavanagh returned to council in 1983 and five years later, when mayor Laurence Decore moved to provincial politics, councillors once again appointed Cavanagh to serve as interim mayor. The next year, Cavanagh lost the mayoral race and went on to serve on council from 1992 until 2007 when he retired from politics.

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After politics, Cavanagh worked with a number of local organizations and taught various subjects at Victoria Composite High School, NAIT and the University of Alberta.

In 2006, on his 80th birthday, Cavanagh was declared “a historic resource” at city hall.

Most recently, Cavanagh was known to help out with Crystal Kids Youth Centre, a charity that helps homeless Edmonton youths living in poverty.

Before entering the political arena, Cavanagh played minor hockey in Alberta’s capital and later enjoyed a semi-professional career that saw him play in leagues in both Canada and the U.S. He played junior hockey with the Galt Red Wings, alongside Gordie Howe.

On Dec. 29, 2015, Cavanagh’s wife June (née Gould) passed away after a brief illness. The Cavanaghs were married for 67 years, had two daughters — Gay and Valerie — and a son named Terry, along with several grandchildren.

Mayor Don Iveson said the High Level Bridge would be “City of Edmonton blue in his memory” Tuesday night.

The city lowered the flag at city hall Tuesday in Cavanagh’s honour. It will remain lowered until sunset on Thursday.

A funeral is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.

— With files from 630 CHED’s Scott Johnston