Counselor's Corner: A legacy of love

By Fred Cavaiani

My 93-year-old Uncle Bill died. He was my father’s only sibling. We had the funeral in Iron Mountain, Mich., last week. He left our entire family, his three sons and my brother and myself, our wives, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren a profound legacy of love. He was a World War II veteran, having served in New Guinea as an army sergeant. For many years he and my father were partners in owning a supper club, called Cavi’s Crystal Bar and then Cavi’s Supper Club right across the Michigan border in Aurora, Wis. It was probably the most popular and beloved gathering place in that small corner of Upper Michigan. Everyone who entered Cavi’s felt loved, respected and appreciated. It was a true life “Cheers” to all who entered.

When I was a child, Uncle Bill was always there with his gentle warmth and loving words. To know him was to feel loved and respected. Even in his last year of life whenever I talked with him he would ask me how my wife was doing and how my children were doing. At every transitional point in my brother’s life and my life Uncle Bill was there in some manner. To know him was to feel loved. His gift of love radiated to his three sons and their wives and children. It also radiated down to our children who insisted on attending the funeral even though they didn’t see him very often because we live so far away. So my wife and our three adult children, and two young granddaughters traveled the eight hours to give Uncle Bill a royal Cavaiani send off. And it was just that. The night before we gathered at a Supper Club that was next door to the one Uncle Bill and Dad owned but which is no longer there. We talked, laughed, reminisced and shared memories.

The power of this very humble, gentle and kind man extended to many people. His home was the center of Cavaiani family gatherings for many years. This tradition now is continued at my brother’s home and my cousin’s home who live on the same lake, Pretty Lake, in the heart of Wisconsin over the past many years. Each year the Cavaiani’s get together to celebrate the 4th of July and share and reminisce. I think the power behind these gatherings is Uncle Bill.

To leave a legacy of love to our families and friends is the purpose of everyone’s life. My Uncle Bill lived this legacy of love consistently throughout his life. He did this without any fanfare. He just treated everyone with gentle kindness, respect and warmth. To be in his presence meant that you felt someone was interested in you. This same quality extends to his three sons, two nephews and their spouses and children.

The power of love gives another person an experience that will remain inside of that person forever. The power of kindness causes others to repeat that kindness over and over again in actions and words. I witnessed this profoundly as I observed all the Cavaiani’s interacting with each other and with all the friends and relatives who came to the funeral. It was like my Uncle Bill had cloned himself in his descendants.

At the cemetery as they were lowering the casket into the ground while a 21 gun salute was made and taps were being played I stood there saluting my uncle with tears flowing down my cheeks. My son remembered this and on the way home he told me that this was quite moving for him to see his old man crying, saluting and remembering. He reminisced about what a loving man my uncle Bill was and what an effect he had on people. He then told me, “You are like that, Dad.” I gratefully thanked him and thought, “So is all the Cavaiani family.” This is because of Uncle Bill and my grandmother and grandfather and father. They had this gift of care and concern for other people.

A few days before the funeral one of Uncle Bill’s granddaughters had a serious automobile accident. She was on crutches and quite banged up. But she and her children still made it to the funeral even though she was in a great deal of pain. It was like no power on earth would keep her from being there.

Love changes people and makes them better. This brave World War II veteran who fought for his country with bravery and dedication (both he and my father were married and enlisted into the service soon after Pearl Harbor) carried on the greatest tradition and power that the world can ever experience — the power of love. He left all of us a legacy of love.

This is the calling of every man and woman who enter this world — to leave a legacy of love behind. The Cavaiani family had a great teacher. May we continue to be good pupils of this great teacher who taught us how to love.

Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his Web site is