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‘Always there when you needed him’: Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett’s friendship, charm and irreverence recalled at packed memorial

BY SHARON WOOLUMS | The service for Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett at Greenwich Village Funeral Home on May 9 drew an overflow crowd, with some mourners stranded out on the sidewalk unable to get inside.

Kavanagh-Dowsett died April 27 at age 56.

In her eulogy, Sean and Nicky’s daughter, Audrey, summed up the common thread in the remarks of all who spoke.

“The theme through all the stories I’ve heard has surrounded friendship and how he’s been there in one way or another,” she said.

Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett and his daughter, Audrey, when she was a young girl. (Courtesy Nicky Perry)

Audrey quoted activist attorney Yetta Kurland, who said she knew that when she got a phone call from Sean, “it would be about helping someone fight a landlord, deal with an abusive ex-partner or somehow help someone out of a difficult situation,” and how “no matter how difficult [the problem], Sean would be there to take the weight off someone else’s shoulders.”

“He was everything I hope to be,” Audrey said, “and my attitude toward friendship, kindness and loyalty will always be emblematic of who he was and what he’s taught me. The community of people that are here today are a testament to what was beloved by my father.”

Sean’s sisters, Tara Kavanagh-Dowsett and Scarlett Kavanagh-Dowsett, both spoke at the service. One recalled her brother’s “charm, wit and wisdom that managed to secure him the most colorful friends, making the everyday fantastical and inspiring, and one to us that seemed otherworldly.”

Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett with his sisters, Scarlett Kavanagh-Dowsett and Tara Kavanagh-Dowsett. (Courtesy the Kavanagh-Dowsetts)

Taylor Lawrence spoke of Sean’s wealth of knowledge that “seemed endless.”

Brad Abrams spoke of the “laughs and, as friends do, helping each other out. He would be there when you needed him,” he said. “No questions asked. Well, he might ask you what tools he should bring. Invariably, though, most of what he needed was probably already on his belt. Right? That belt, it was remarkable. I think Sean may have actually been the real Batman! I would try and thank him for his efforts and he would just say, ‘It’s what we do, mate.’ It was more than just words. It was a code to live by. It was part of his moral compass. He was there when my wife Brooke and I got married, driving us from the ceremony to the reception in the London cab… . In Yiddish such a man is called a mensch.”

Daniel Neiden spoke of how Sean liked to refer to him, “not just as Jewish, but as a Red Sea pedestrian. One specific thing I will miss, but always love about Sean is summed up by the word ‘irreverent,'” he said. “Sean would consistently make the meaningful absurd, and the absurd meaningful. No matter the crowd or the occasion, irreverent.”

The memorial at Greenwich Village Funeral Home was jam-packed. (Photo by Sharon Woolums)

Sean’s modeling career, which began in London, Paris and Milan, brought him to New York on a 10-day job and he fell in love with the city. After meeting Perry, a new chapter unfolded for him.

“When Sean met Nicky and became part of Tea & Sympathy and all that it embodied,” one of his sisters said, “it was like a musician finally finding his instrument.”

Sean and Nicky were featured prominently in “The Lost Village,” a 2018 documentary about gentrification in Greenwich Village, of which this writer was associate producer. In the film, Nicky bemoans the possibility that Trump might get reelected, and that if he did, they would leave the country.

Tosca Jackson spoke of Sean’s hatred for Donald Trump, recalling that his anti-Trump hat remained firmly on his head for five years.

We are so glad they stuck out the Trump years because this stellar couple and their beloved restaurant, Tea & Sympathy, are integral to what makes our Greenwich Village so cherished. And Sean, with that “rare generosity of spirit,” of which so many spoke, will forever hold a place in our Village and in our hearts.


  1. Latane Latane May 27, 2023

    Very beautiful story. Nicky and Sean are why I fell in love with New York. Such beautiful people.

  2. Eileen Dunn RN Eileen Dunn RN May 27, 2023

    Our country needs more Seans, Nickys and Audreys. God Bless all of them.

  3. Kathryn Adisman Kathryn Adisman May 23, 2023

    Sadly, I was one of the mourners stranded outside on the sidewalk due to the overflow crowd. I am sincerely grateful that Sharon Woolums was there to report on the immense emotional and physical outpouring at the memorial service for Sean, whose obituary I had written. It was surreal to be isolated in the midst of a community I am part of. It drives home the message Sean leaves us with of the importance to be there for each other while we’re here.

  4. Michael Markowitz Michael Markowitz May 22, 2023

    The Mirthful Mayor of Greenwich Ave will be sorely missed and ne’er forgotten by all who ever had the good fortune to spend even moments in his presence.

    His humor, integrity, and above all, passion for life in general and his loves in particular, Nicky and Audrey, I will treasure forever.

    And of course there was an Aston Martin DB5 parked out front of the memorial. There had to be.

  5. Bobby miller Bobby miller May 22, 2023

    Sean and Nicky were my next door neighbors on Greenwich Ave for many years and their kindness and concern for my well-being was a part of my daily life. Sean was the kind of straight man who treated gay men like a comrade and was so secure in his own identity that he could flirt with you and make you feel appreciated without making you feel intimidated. Sean was a great man who filled the room with his smile. I will miss him and his kindness.

    • TRETierney TRETierney May 29, 2023

      Exactly! Adored the bloke for decades and always will!

  6. Robert Mirfield Robert Mirfield May 22, 2023

    Sean was the hub surrounded by friends.

  7. Mat Arnfield Mat Arnfield May 21, 2023

    Very well said, I’m honoured to of known Sean for almost twenty years and he will be missed by so many people. I hope wherever he is, there is a moped that requires fixing! Rest in peace man

  8. Paul Paul May 20, 2023

    Beautiful story, Sharon

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