Ocean Beach 05
Official Obituary of

Katherine Kavanaugh Ryan

November 30, 1980 ~ February 21, 2024 (age 43) 43 Years Old

Katherine Ryan Obituary

Katherine Kavanaugh Ryan of Portland, Maine passed from this world as we know it on February 21, 2024, at the age of 43, four years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  Known for her loving open-mindedness and deep kindness, Katherine was a trusted and grounding confidant to many.  She possessed a unique combination of both forthrightness and empathy. Katherine had boundless compassion for her friends, the young, and those different from her.  The heart and soul of her life were her two children, husband, parents, sisters, and a legion of beloved friends.

Katherine lived a joyful life, had a raucous laugh, and never left a dance party early.  She enjoyed live music under the setting sun at Thompson’s Point and sitting around a crackling fire singing with family and friends under a rising moon. 

Katherine grew up in Westborough, Massachusetts, where she was known as a fierce competitor, gifted athlete, curious learner, and a loyal friend.  In 4th grade she finished the annual town youth run in 3rd place, bested only by two boys and later was all-league in multiple varsity sports.  Throughout her teenage years, she supported and celebrated with many friends often while driving around in old sedans listening to 90s rap. Katherine graduated from Amherst College in 2003, before earning a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Vermont.  At both institutions, she formed life-long friendships and was known for bringing people together. 

Katherine had an analytical mind combined with high emotional and social intelligence.  With these attributes, she dedicated her career as a clinical psychologist serving a broad community, including those with trauma, addiction and chronic illness. 

In 2007, Katherine met her husband, Jake Riley, at an 80s dance club in Burlington, VT, and they married several years later on the shores of Lake Sebago.  They shared a deep love and were grateful for their 17-year partnership, which was rich with laughter, adventure, and an acceptance of each other’s flaws.  Jake and Katherine’s profound connection emerged fully while paddling down rivers, skiing through snowy woods, and climbing up moss covered trails. Katherine was a natural mom and was very proud of her two kids, Maya and Finn. They will remember the feeling of her all-encompassing love, and the many ways she showed it, from snuggling and reading Harry Potter, to staging epic lightsaber battles and throwing Taylor Swift dance parties.

Katherine had a strong spiritual presence and incorporated mindfulness principles into her daily life.  As she recently wrote, “The deep dark woods and ocean views fill my heart with the awareness that the world is vast and divine in its beauty. I am but one tiny component but interconnected to the people I love with a deeper knowing that there is a transcendence of time, place, love. I will be there in these places – look for me, feel me, I am there.”

Katherine was a beloved daughter to Don and Mary Kavanaugh Ryan.  Katherine was very close with her two younger sisters, Eileen and Allie Ryan, and the three girls cherished their sisterhood. Eileen and Allie were grateful for her guidance and soulful wisdom, even at a young age, so much so that they each asked her to officiate their weddings.  Katherine later presided over another wedding of two dear friends – a demonstration of her spiritual strength and grounding nature.  

Katherine and her family would like to thank her dedicated team at New England Cancer Specialists, who grew to love and respect Katherine for her unwavering determination to keep living HER life throughout years of rigorous treatments. The family is also grateful for the humanity and kindness displayed by the larger community of friends, family and even strangers who continually extended themselves to help her.  Those interested in honoring Katherine can make a donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in her memory. 

In the face of the unthinkable, Katherine demonstrated her grit, grace and gratitude while rising up again and again with vulnerability and her generosity of spirit.  She will be missed by all those who she loved with such open-hearted intention.

 As she recently wrote, “Cancer, and my mortality, has invited me to ponder the meaning of life.  And I am certain that it is to love and be loved. It is that simple. Every day since my diagnosis, I have tried to live open-heartedly, offering love and receiving love the best I can. To exist in love, through love, and with love is profoundly beautiful and my love will resonate and ripple out long past my time in this physical body.” 

To plant a beautiful memorial tree in memory of Katherine Kavanaugh Ryan, please visit our Tree Store.

Friends and family have shared their relationship to show their support.
How do you know Katherine Kavanaugh Ryan?
We are sorry for your loss.
Help others honor Katherine's memory.


Memorial Gathering
March 24, 2024

11:00 AM
Ocean Gateway House
14 Ocean Gateway Pier
Portland, ME 04101


© 2024 . All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS & TA | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Accessibility