While in high school, Cathy McCann met then Senator Harry S. Truman and got to be “senator for the day” during a high school field trip to Washington DC. Perhaps this was one of the formative occasions in her lifetime that propelled her to years of civic service for the South Miami community after she and husband Peter left their native Maine for the Sunshine State. A South Miami resident since 1970, McCann served 10 years as city commissioner and four years as mayor from 1980 to 1994. She passed on April 18, 2009 at 75 years old. The legacy of Cathy McCann lives on thanks to a recent street naming ceremony in her honor.
On a recent sunny Wednesday afternoon, family and friends gathered at Dante Fascell Park to unveil the new sign that runs from the corner of 58 Avenue and 87 Street to Sunset Drive. After and comments from city officials, widower Peter McCann spoke affectionately about the amazing life of his bride.
“Cathy was one of nine children born during the depression in Portland, Maine. Pre-politics she was an avid skier and graduate of Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Cathy lived by the motto ‘we should always try to give back more than we receive.’”
McCann said one of the family’s fondest moments from her days in office came after the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, 1992. “South Miami was the first city in Miami-Dade County to get cleaned up. We actually slept at city hall during the initial two weeks after the storm as the clean-up efforts got underway.”
Part of the legacy of Cathy McCann seems to be her quest for affordable housing to all residents of the community. Having served for many years on the board of Habitat for Humanity and as president, former board members and friends repeatedly shared stories about her commitment to build homes for the disadvantaged.”
An enthusiastic Commissioner Velma Palmer talked about fond memories of her mentor and all the valuable advice she received prior to Palmer’s start as city commissioner. “‘Now you make sure people get housing in South Miami, Velma” Palmer quoted McCann as saying. “Cathy was life. She was so good to everyone.’”
Friend Anne Manning said that she met Cathy on the slab of the first Habitat for Humanity house in South Miami. “Forty houses in this city would not be here but for Cathy. She was the kind of mayor that stayed and worked on the building site with us all day, not just for a photo opp.”
Before the benediction “The Singing Miamians of Pinecrest” did a copula rendition of “God Bless America.” In her concluding remarks Pastor Felber said God brings people into our lives for a purpose and Cathy’s presence in her life was indeed heaven sent. “She made a big difference in this city’s life. Cathy had so much drive it is appropriate we honor her with Cathy McCann Drive. We have a living legacy for her right her in her family. Her spirit, energy, and commitment to this city will live on.”