School bus driving fire chief died hours after keeping kids safe during medical emergency

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WOODWARD, Iowa – Two Iowa communities are mourning after losing community pillar Ken Cavanaugh.

“[He was a] super guy. I moved here in 1986. Probably the second friend I made when I moved to the Woodward area, and he was like a brother,” said Woodward Rescue Fire Captain Karl Harris.

In October 2021, Cavanaugh suffered a medical emergency while driving a bus full of children. Fortunately, Cavanaugh was able to safely maneuver the bus off the road and into a bean field. Harris responded to that scene and remembered that day.

“Because we know what the signs and symptoms, [we] feel like he knew that [a medical emergency] was coming on by the way he felt himself. He got the bus off the travel portion of the road without colliding with anything else and ended up parking in a bean field,” said Harris.

According to Cavanaugh’s obituary, he wore many hats in the community. He was a bus driver for the Woodward-Granger Community School District. He served as the chief for both the Bouton and the Woodward fire departments. Cavanaugh also worked for the Dallas County EMS for 24 years, and he was one of the original 11 founding members of the EMS department for Woodward Fire.

While Cavanaugh died on Monday, Nov. 1 with his family by his side, Harris would like people to remember how he dedicated his life to his family and the community.

On Saturday, Nov. 6, a procession was held in Cavanaugh’s honor. His funeral was held at Woodward-Granger High School.

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