Obituaries » J. Gaynor Cawley

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J. Gaynor Cawley

June 19, 1941 - March 12, 2021

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J. Gaynor Cawley, a lifelong West Scranton resident and former state legislator representing the 113th legislative district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, passed away Friday evening peacefully surrounded by his adoring family. He was 79 years old.
Gaynor’s fourth grade sweetheart, lifelong best friend and beloved wife of 55 years, Kathryn ‘Kathy’ (Karam) Cawley, survives. Deeply faithful and devoted to St. Francis, he was a longtime member of St. Ann Maronite Church in West Scranton.
Born on June 19, 1941 in Scranton, Gaynor was the son of the late J. Gaynor and Margaret (McHale) Cawley. He attended St. Patrick’s School in West Scranton, where he was a standout athlete in basketball, football, and, especially, baseball.
After graduating from St. Patrick’s in 1960, he attended the University of Scranton for a year, before being drafted by the Thomasville Tigers, the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A team. He was later traded to the Houston Colt 45’s, but in the spirit of true love left baseball to return home to marry Kathy and start a family, which ultimately became his life’s greatest achievement.
Early in his career, Gaynor worked in retail for Arlan’s Department Stores and F.W. Woolworth, which briefly relocated the growing family to Seneca Falls, NY. Upon their return to the area, Gaynor launched his career in public service. He served in multiple capacities with the City of Scranton, including as director of public works, deputy mayor, and director of community development.
In 1980, he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and honorably served constituents of the 113th legislative district until his retirement in 2006. He was guided by integrity and a simple desire to improve the lives of all members of his community, especially the most vulnerable, regardless of the surrounding political environment or consequences.
Beyond his infectious smile, humor and larger-than-life personality was a man whose true character was defined by humility, honesty and concern for others. Commonly referring to those with special needs, the homeless or needy as his “angels,” from the time he was a child until his final days, he was a champion for the less fortunate as well as an animal lover and advocate.
In retirement, he found great peace knowing that his legacy as a humanitarian would be honored and carried on by his adoring family . . . his greatest joy.
Along with Kathy, he is survived by his five loving daughters of whom he was so proud, including Lynn Cawley of Scranton, Tara Cawley Russo and husband Art of Scranton, Claudine Cawley Gaughan and husband Jim of Moscow, Jennifer Cawley of Scranton, and Kate Cawley Suraci and husband Frank of Clarks Summit; eight adored grandchildren, Zachary, J.C., Ava, Lila, Katherine, Oliver, Sofia, and Leo; three siblings, Patrick Cawley of West Pittston, James Cawley of Scranton, and Sarellen McAndrew of Richmond, VA; and a brother-in-law, Lewis Conrad of Scranton; as well many nieces, nephews and cousins. His sister, Linda Conrad, preceded him in death.
Throughout Gaynor’s illness, so many provided exceptional care. His family would like to thank Drs. Chris Peters, Martin Hyzinski, and Ken Sebastianelli; the wonderful team at Sinclair’s Home Health Care; and the entire Allied Services organization, which supported him and Kathy over a number of years in many wonderful ways. The compassionate Allied Home Hospice team made it possible for Gaynor to spend his final days surrounded by his family in the comfort of home.
A Mass of Christian burial followed by interment at Cathedral Cemetery will be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Gaynor’s name to Northeast Regional Cancer Institute ( or Allied Services Foundation (
Arrangements are under the care of the Kevin K. Kearney Funeral Home, Inc., 125 North Main Avenue, Scranton. Please visit to leave a condolence.