Willie Cavenaugh, San Juan Island humorist and retired teacher, dies at home

Willie Cavenaugh ... posters announcing his passing reflected his sense of humor. - The Willie Cavenaugh family
Willie Cavenaugh ... posters announcing his passing reflected his sense of humor.
— image credit: The Willie Cavenaugh family

Willie Cavenaugh, a retired educator, one-time write-in candidate for San Juan County Commission, and proprietor of the fictitious Wild Willie’s Roadkill Mortuary, has died.

Mr. Cavenaugh died Oct. 2 in his home on Lampard Road. He was one day shy of his 73rd birthday.

No funeral service is planned, according to Evans Funeral Chapel in Anacortes. American Legion Post 163 is planning a gathering.

Mr. Cavenaugh was born Oct. 3, 1935 in Philadelphia, Pa., the son of William Ferguson Cavenaugh and the former Mary Davis.

He grew up in Seattle and graduated from Western Washington University. He was a retired teacher, a U.S. Navy veteran, and a member of American Legion Post 163 in Friday Harbor. He loved to fish and pan for gold in Alaska.

He was widely known for his sense of humor. In 2000, he ran as a write-in candidate for County Commission. That campaign featured posters of Mr. Cavenaugh sitting in an outhouse, with the promise that he would keep working “until the paperwork’s done.”

On his truck, he had a sign, Wild Willie’s Roadkill Mortuary.

Even the notice of his passing reflected his sense of humor. Made by his children, it resembles a “Wanted” poster and states that Mr. Cavenaugh has been apprehended by his late wife, Nancy Jo. She passed away July 7, 2007.

Mr. Cavenaugh is survived by his son, Sean Cavenaugh, of Oakland, Calif.; son, Kevin Cavenaugh, of Portland, Ore.; daughter, Megan Wood, of Tucson, Ariz.; stepson, Jess Rathburn, of Friday Harbor; and stepson, Jeff Rathburn, of Friday Harbor; and grandchildren, Jack Cavenaugh, 10; Grace Cavenaugh, 8; Lilyjane Cavenaugh, 3; Ryan Wood, 7 months; Max Rathburn, 10; and Claire Rathburn, 7.

— Richard Walker

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