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Cambridge-Vivian Marie Coulter Kavanaugh, died peacefully and loved, surrounded by her family, on Saturday, May 19, 2018, in Bennington, Vermont. She was 93.
Vivian was admired for her courage, class, compassion, and a keen intellect. As her colleagues and classmates could attest, “no one who has ever met Viv could forget her quick wit and humor” (1951 college yearbook). She taught all those around her that to keep living was to keep moving, learning - and, above all, to keep laughing.
Vivian was born in Schenectady, New York on February 28, 1925; the daughter of Raymond L. and Josephine (Snowstein) Coulter. She attended Schenectady city schools, and graduated from Nott Terrace High School in 1943. She worked various jobs at H. S. Barney and the General Electric Company while attending college at Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University. She graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in medical technology and certification and registry with the American Society for Clinical Pathology in 1951. Her specialty was hematology, and she worked in the medical laboratories of hospitals in Albany, Schenectady and Troy, New York; as well as Phoenix, Tucson, and Prescott, Arizona. She also worked in the medical clinic at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) in Schenectady. In addition to her medical laboratory work, she taught hematology to fourth-year medical technology students for several universities at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, and Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. She was active in the ASCP and other professional societies.
While working at KAPL she met Paul B. Kavanaugh, who served as fire chief for the facility. Although Vivian relocated to Tucson for employment, Paul continued to court her and they were married in the Cathedral of Saint Augustine in Tucson in April, 1953. They returned to Schenectady, where they lived, worked and raised a family until Paul retired from General Electric and KAPL in 1963. Vivian always loved the climate and desert beauty of Arizona; and the family relocated there from 1963 through 1967, living in Prescott and then Glendale, Arizona. Although they moved back to Schenectady for family reasons, after Paul passed and she retired, Vivian moved to Prescott in 1988. She returned to live near family in Cambridge, New York, in 1998; and lived there until her death.
Vivian was a force of nature. To those who underestimated her, she was proof that appearances can be deceiving. To her friends and family, she provided a constant exemplar that life is not what happens to you, but how you respond to challenges when they arise. Her family and close friends all know how she defined “sympathy”.
Vivian was also a champion for Americans with disabilities whose determination inspired all who knew her. Diagnosed with a severe and disabling form of psoriatic arthritis at the age of 12, she fought without surrender for the next 81 years to maintain her mobility and independence. She underwent several hip replacements and operations on her hands and feet to preserve her ability to work, support and enjoy her beloved family and profession. She spent the last 45 years on crutches, but it did not slow her down. She lived in her own apartment and was a familiar sight on the streets of the Village of Cambridge in warm weather as she made her rounds from the IGA, pharmacy, Round House Bakery and farmers’ market and elsewhere on her electric scooter. From plays at Hubbard Hall, to concerts at Proctors, readings at the Northshire Bookstore, and local cèilidhs and community dinners, she was proud to support local businesses and artists.
Vivian radiated a tenacious optimism. She was strongly opinionated and not shy about expressing those opinions. She was a social justice warrior seven decades before the phrase was coined, and campaigned passionately for political and healthcare reforms, environmental protection and conservation, as well as civil and economic justice, and human rights. Never one to suffer bullies or society’s wont to fear what it does not understand, Vivian was an informed, compassionate ally and advocate for the people and causes she loved. She watched the politicians in Albany and Washington like a hawk, and was outspoken in voicing her critiques as well as her support.
Vivian was devoted to her family, and they to her. She was predeceased by her parents and husband; and is survived by her brother William Coulter of Schenectady; son Timothy Kavanaugh (Sandra) of Vicksburg, Mississippi; son David Kavanaugh of Cambridge; and daughter Margaret Kavanaugh-Lynch (Mhel) of El Cerrito, California. She is also survived by grandchildren Claire Mitchell (Jeremy) of Honolulu, Hawaii; Laura Kavanaugh (Alexander Lourenco) of Bonn, Germany; and Tyler and Matthew Kavanaugh-Lynch of El Cerrito; uncle Lewis Coulter (Ella), of Phoenix; niece Phyllis Kingsbury (John), of Schenectady; nephew Kevin Coulter (Alita), of Vischers Ferry, New York and several cousins. She is also survived by dear friends, neighbors and colleagues throughout the country.
Her family would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Matt Pender; the many wonderful medical staff members and aids at Southwest Vermont Medical Center, Bennington Health & Rehabilitation Center, and The Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Hoosick Falls who helped her over the years in her struggle for mobility and independence. A special, loving thanks goes out to Cindy Ayers and Kim Colon for making her independence possible and treating her as their own mother and grandmother, and Diane O’Malley for her friendship and support.
A memorial service will be held at a later date at the convenience of the family, and interment will be in Schenectady Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to organizations Vivian enjoyed and supported such as Hubbard Hall Projects (https://hubbardhall.org); Bill McKibben (https://350.org); or Cambridge Valley Farmers Market (http://www.cambridgevalleyfarmersmarket.com).