Music Fan, Multi-Medal Winning Special Olympian Dies | WGLT

Music Fan, Multi-Medal Winning Special Olympian Dies

Feb 20, 2017

Mike Cavanaugh dancing at the 2011 GLT Summer Concert in downtown Bloomington.
Credit Ralph Weisheit

A fixture on the central Illinois music scene passed away February 18 of a stoke.  Michael Cavanaugh could be seen in music clubs and festivals across Bloomington-Normal, usually dancing and chatting it up with anyone who approached him.

Morgan Schulte is a special education teacher and a therapist at The Baby Fold in Normal.  In her spare time she helps promote music in the Twin Cities.  She said Cavanaugh was embedded in the local music scene.

"If you're in a local band or a local music supporter, you knew him," said Schulte.  "He was out and about every weekend in downtown Bloomington.  Whether it was Six Strings, Fat Jacks, or the Castle Theater, he was always the man in the front dancing.  He was a guy you just wanted to be around. We all meet people we enjoy being around, but he was just different."

Speaking during Morning Edition on GLT, Schulte said she didn't have a single story to characterize Cavanaugh, but said overall he was just a great guy.

"A couple friends and I were chatting yesterday about him.  One of my friends hit the nail on the head when describing him.  She said 'he was pure joy.'  And if a person could be such a thing, it would be Mike," said Schulte.

Jeff Stewart of Bloomington is a Connect Transit driver who knew Cavanaugh for 40 years.  He said he lived about a mile away from him, but would see him often when visiting his grandmother, who lived in the same neighborhood as Cavanaugh.

"Mike would come down with all the neighborhood kids with his basketball.  He would always do his basketball tricks and loved shooting baskets and hanging out with everybody.  He was just a terrific person and would do anything for you.  He loved being around people all the time," said Stewart.

Cavanaugh, aged 62, was also an integral part of Normal based Special Olympics Illinois, often sharing his love of bocce ball, basketball, and other sports.

"He even went to Greece several years ago," said Stewart.  "If I recall, he had over 500 Special Olympic medals."

Hayley Lynn is a 2015 Illinois State University grad who now works at Rush Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She was in the Twin Cities this weekend for the first time in over a year, and made a stop at Six Strings Club to hear music.

"And on Friday night he saw me and came up to me and said 'it's so nice to see you again.'   He remembered exactly who I was and asked me to dance again.  It was very sad to hear the news, but also very cool that I got to have one last dance with him on Friday night," said Lynn.

Cavanaugh worked at Four Seasons Health Club in Bloomington for over three decades and attended Bloomington High School.  Funeral arrangements are pending.