April 25, 2008

Mr. Funnybones

Filed under: Personal — alexboerner @ 3:56 am

Phil Kavanaugh, known to most people in Stuart, FL and along Florida’s Treasure Coast as Mr. Funnybones, passed on Thursday morning after a six-month battle with cancer. The photo below was taken last week and represents a large group of friends and co-workers (also friends) who met to form the inaugural meeting of the Mr. Funnybones fan club while Phil was in intensive care.

He was a fierce proponent for the arts and after having worked at the now closed Center for the Arts in Stuart, he moved to the Martin County library system where he became program director of the Blake library. He pushed to bring out of the ordinary entertainment to the area, and had been successful. 

I met Phil through my fiancee, Deborah Silver, and while I only knew him for a short while he made a strong impression on me. Stronger than he might have known. While Phil was usually joking and poking with his quick wit, it was an angry conversation I had with him that sticks with me the most. State budget cuts for 2008 meant all government agencies were likely going to lose funding and the library was no exception. The immediate impact for the programming at the library was that they either had to stop bringing in acts on a regular basis, which they provided for free to the public, or they were going to have to begin charging $10-$15 for tickets, which would most likely mean much smaller attendance (as it turned out, he was exactly right. Last year Deborah and I went to see Tampa based singer/songwriter Lorna Bracewell for free at a packed library. She’s back again this year, but tickets are $15, and sales were well below what they were hoping for). His goal was to spread a little culture and he was incensed at the idea that people were going to lose out on worthwhile experiences in order to save a little bit of money on their property taxes. He was pissed, and at that moment his anger was pointed at me because, well for one I was in the room, and secondly, I work for the local newspaper.

I didn’t know how to respond to him, and I honestly felt ashamed that I didn’t understand the situation better. But what I saw in Phil, beyond the anger that day, was an intensity for what he believed to be important, and the intelligence to be able to speak about it. And I admire that immensely.

He was much more than a clown. He reminded me to take things seriously…but not too seriously.

The photos below are a portrait series of Phil in some of his costume hats. The series was conceived by Phil and shot by Deborah Silver on February 2, 2008.









We’ll miss you Phil…


  1. Well said Alex. I didn’t know him very well either. But the handful of times I’ve talked with him or been around him, his energy and passion were evident. He will be missed for sure.

    Comment by Matthew — April 25, 2008 @ 4:07 am | Reply

  2. His memorial was a beautiful display of the impact he’s made on our community. How lucky we are to have such creative, kooky and caring people in our midst. It always strikes me through the heart when their laughter and energy become part of the midst. Why is it always hard to remember that all good things must pass?

    Comment by suzanne — April 28, 2008 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

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