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Samuel Canavan

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Samuel Canavan Obituary
Samuel "Earle" Canavan died February 9, 2016, at his home in Malibu, California, at age 78. Earle was born December 5, 1937, in Portadown, Northern Ireland, to Samuel George and Lily (Mayes) Canavan. He emigrated to the United States with his family in 1951 and settled in Amsterdam, NY. Earle graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High School in 1957 and was soon inducted into the U.S. Army. He later met Elizabeth (Betty) Kozlowich in Detroit, MI, and they were married at Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn, MI, on August 14, 1965. As a young boy in Ireland, Earle was enrolled as a member of the Knocknamuckley Parish Church boys choir, where he would receive a pound note each month for attendance. The need for speed often drew Earle away, and many times he would skip choir practice to ride his bicycle many miles to watch motorcycle races. Earle idolized land speed car drivers, and was always looking for new ways to soup up his own car. He worked at Shuttig Service Station and built a dragster in his spare time. His first racecar was a AA/fuel dragster called "The President Lincoln", the only Lincoln engine dragster of its time, and he competed in IHRA and NHRA events. Earle also admired oval track racing and modified his first road-racing car, an American Motors Javelin, to drive on the Sports Car Club of America road racing circuit. He chose to look toward NASCAR and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1971. He was welcomed into the Richard Petty shop to observe stock car construction, and even allowed to take measurements. Over the next 13 years Earle raced on the NASCAR Grand American and Grand National circuits, and modified, owned and drove many different model stock cars. His corporate sponsors included Benihana of Tokyo, Borden Foods, Pepsi-Cola, Kodak and Wrangler. He was a member of the Union Oil Record Club, and was recognized in the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum and by the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame. Earle had a great sense of humor and enjoyed heavyweight boxing, wrestling, and souping up anything with a motor. He met many celebrities along the way, including Mohammed Ali, Paul Newman, Marty Robbins, AJ Foyt and Carroll Shelby, to name a few. But the highlight of his career was taking his family to a special invitation NASCAR dinner at the White House with President and Mrs. Carter in 1978. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Elizabeth (Betty) Canavan; daughters, Tracy Wager (Rex) of Cave Creek, AZ, Heather Gilbert (David) of Grand Forks, ND, and April Simmons (Steven) of Cave Creek, AZ; his sister, Joan Los (John) of Schenectady, NY; and grandsons, (Robert & William Wager, Ryan & Taylor Gilbert); nieces, and a nephew; as well as several cousins in Northern Ireland, England and South Africa. He was preceded in death by his parents and an infant brother and sister. Interment and graveside services will be held Tuesday, August 9, 2016, at 10 a.m. at Pine Grove Cemetery, Tribes Hill, NY. The Rev. Allen Hart, St. Ann's Episcopal Church, officiating. Flowers in Earle's memory will grace the altar August 21, 2016, at St. Ann's Episcopal Church, Amsterdam, NY. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Montgomery County Historical Society for the benefit of Old Fort Johnson.
Published in The Daily Gazette on July 31, 2016
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