Harvard artist honors slain officer

John Cavanaugh’s portrait of Sean Gannon.

When John Cavanaugh saw the news reports about the April 12 killing of Yarmouth Police K-9 Officer Sean Gannon, “It just hit me,” Cavanaugh said. Gannon, 32, was fatally shot while trying to serve an arrest warrant on a man with a long criminal record. Gannon’s police dog, Nero, was also shot but is recovering.

Cavanaugh, who lives on Whitney Road, decided he had to do a portrait to honor Gannon and Nero. Although he has worked full time in the computer industry for 37 years, Cavanaugh has been painting even longer. In a telephone interview with the Press, he credited a great art teacher at Needham High School for sparking his interest, and he has kept on learning and developing as an artist ever since, including taking classes with Bromfield School teacher Martha Brooks.

Cavanaugh does his oil paintings from photographs, because he often paints portraits of young people who have met untimely deaths. He explained that he has given paintings to longtime friends who have lost their sons or daughters through accident or illness. He sees the portraits as a way of helping people who are grieving, as well as honoring the memory of the person who has died.

After hearing about Gannon’s death and seeing an online photo of the officer with Nero, Cavanaugh worked 25 to 30 hours on a painting of the pair. He sent a message to Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson to tell him about the painting and took it to Yarmouth earlier this month, when he was also going to the area for an annual charity walk. At the police station, Cavanaugh presented the portrait to Frederickson and Deputy Chief Steven Xiarhos.

From left: Yarmouth Deputy Chief Steven Xiarhos, John Cavanaugh, and Yarmouth Chief of Police Frank Frederickson. (Courtesy photos)

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