November 3, 1937 – August 28, 2021
Early on the morning of August 28th, Thomas Giles Kavanagh, to borrow the words of John Gillespie McGee, slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God. He was born November 3, 1937, in Detroit to George, a musician, and Doris, a homemaker. Though born late in the year, he could still say he was part of Michigan’s Centennial celebration. Being the oldest of six, his father would come to refer to him as “my Number One Son”.
Growing up just off Woodward Avenue in Huntington Woods, and later, Royal Oak, Giles graduated from University of Detroit High School in 1955. Like his grandfather before him, he was known by his middle name for his whole life. His grandfather, in turn, had been named Giles because he was born September 1st, the Feast of St. Giles, who was a 6th Century French Monk and the Patron Saint of The Disabled in the Catholic Faith.
In early 1956, Giles and his friend, Dave MacInnes, thought it would be an adventure to join the U.S. Marine Corps. By the time the pair graduated boot camp at Parris Island that Spring, they wished they had chosen to gamble that they wouldn’t be drafted. Giles remained in the reserves for 8 more years with stints at NAS Jacksonville and NAS Grosse Ile.
After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Ferris Institute in Big Rapids, Michigan in 1961, Giles was issued his student pilot certificate for single-engine aircraft by the end of that year. One of his life-long guiding principles was: “A problem ignored is a problem half-solved”. The unsolved portion manifested itself on his first solo flight over Detroit, when his plane ran out of fuel. Good thing for reserve tanks!
Shortly after graduating from Ferris, Giles went to work for Ford Motor Company, handling customer service for the newest Thunderbird model. It was a dream job for a car buff, who, by his own count, would go on to own 81 cars over the course of his life. But compared to the humid summers in Michigan, sunny Southern California was a temptation too great to resist.
After driving the Al-Can Highway to Alaska with a friend in 1963 and ruining his new Ford Thunderbird in the process, Giles left Michigan for good. That same year, he became a licensed real estate agent with Coates & Wallace in Newport Beach. In less than 10 years he opened his own brokerage and ultimately sold more than all of his salespeople combined. His 30 years in real estate was the pinnacle of his career, and a number of his clients became life-long friends.
Always having had an interest in politics, Giles met an author and political activist in the late 1960’s by the name of Gary Allen, who rescued him from his dyed-in-the-wool Democrat upbringing and converted him to a John Birch Society Conservative. As a Life Member of the Society, its motto – “Less government, more responsibility, and with God’s help, a better world” - guided his political thought for the remainder of his life.
Having been introduced by his sister-in-law, Dad married his first wife, Sandy, in 1964. Their daughter, Kelly, was born that October. Alas, Sandy was an equestrian aficionado, but Giles didn’t know if he was afoot or on horseback, and this inevitably led to irreconcilable differences.
Within a few years, Giles became a West Coast marketing representative for broadcasting legend Earl Nightingale. Through his many calls to the corporate office in Chicago, he became acquainted with an executive assistant named Laurey Kautter. Though one had never seen the other, they picked each other out from across a crowded convention hall at their first meeting. Giles had met the love of his life. Their marriage at the Clark County Courthouse in Las Vegas on March 22, 1971, was the beginning of a 47-year journey.
On Halloween, October 31, 1971, Giles & Laurey got the scare of their lives as son Todd emerged into the world. As Giles’ real estate business provided for his family, they moved into progressively larger homes – 5 of them by the end of 1979. Through the 1970’s and 1980’s, there were trips across the country; trips to Europe; a flight on the supersonic Concorde jet, and cruises on the Queen Elizabeth 2. Despite 47 years of marriage, in later years, it was these first 17 years which Giles recalled with greatest fondness.
In 1988, when Laurey was suddenly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Giles was the doting husband and helped her through recovery. As a result, they never traveled again. Shortly thereafter, Giles started to lose interest in working and socializing. Things just weren’t the same. Financial difficulties would follow Giles for the remainder of his days.
After the final 9 years in California, Giles convinced Laurey that North Idaho was the ideal retirement spot and they moved there in 1998, with Todd in tow. Never one to let a good conspiracy go to waste, Giles was convinced that the Y2K computer bug would bring the world to its knees, and that Idaho would be a safe haven from the resultant civil unrest. As the years went by, he became more reclusive and content to watch the "boob tube" all day long. One of his favorite sayings became: “Every time I have the urge to exercise, I lay down until the urge passes”, and he lived by it.
Within a few years, Laurey added heart failure to her growing list of health concerns, and Giles was soon to follow. With multiple stents and a pacemaker by 2010, Todd’s caregiving duties for Laurey effectively doubled. After her eventual passing in 2018, the effects of Giles’ dementia accelerated. After a failed driving test, Todd had to take the keys to his beloved Mercedes. Hallucinations led to wandering, and ultimately, a fall and a broken hip. Surgery was followed by 2 months of rehab and finally assisted living for 2 more months, where he passed peacefully in his sleep.
Almost everyone who met Giles was charmed by his smile, especially at the assisted living facility where he was the only male out of a dozen patients. In his prime, he had a magnetic personality that was palpable even over the phone, and it was the driving force behind his success. Greater than his love for people was his love for dogs. So immense was it, Todd joked in later years that, if he could find a way to inhabit the body of a dog, he would do it. Maybe now he has found a way.
Though Giles’ personality faded, his smile never did. And while his recent memories were dim, his recollections of his Father playing music with his orchestra and other childhood memories from Michigan were clear as day. Despite profound hearing loss in later years, Giles managed to fake his way through conversations without hearing a word of what the other person was saying.
While he had been raised a Catholic and subsequently left the Church, in the last few years, he renewed his Faith and attended Christ the King Lutheran Church with Todd. He couldn’t hear most of the Pastor’s sermon, and no longer recognized most of the hymns, but he still knew he was a child of God. Thanks to Pastor Jon, Pastor Larry & Pastor Dannenberg for visiting him during these times and sharing the Love of Christ.
Giles was eager to see Laurey again and they were finally reunited on August 28th. Left behind are his son Todd; daughter Kelly; granddaughter Shannon; brother Tim (Cheryl); sister Mary Jo; and a number of nieces and nephews. Those who went on ahead of him include parents, George & Doris, and brothers George, Denny & Marty. His Service of Remembrance will be 10:00 AM, September 28, 2021, at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue in Coeur d’Alene.