Recreation director Cannon dies at 61 2nd career focused on youth sports

February 07, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

M. Joseph Cannon, director of the county Department of Recreation and Parks and longtime supporter of youth athletics, died early yesterday of brain cancer at his home in Maryland City.

Mr. Cannon, 61, spent two decades organizing youth sports in Maryland City and around the county, first as a volunteer and adviser to the department, then as its director from 1994 until his death.

"Early on, a lot of people felt he was going to just kind of keep a

watch over the department," said Jay Cuccia, department spokesman. "He came, and he had a lot of ideas and initiatives that he wanted to try and push through."

In his years as director, Mr. Cannon oversaw the reopening of the ice-skating rink at Quiet Waters Park, the creation and expansion of several county parks and the revival of a matching-grant program that gave money to community groups to make improvements to recreation facilities.

"He has left a significant mark," Mr. Cuccia said.

Mr. Cannon, a retired federal executive, made that mark in his second career, serving as a coach for youth sports in Maryland City and as a member and later chairman of the Anne Arundel Recreation Advisory Board.

He was so well thought of that the County Council named a baseball stadium in Harmans for him in 1990, when he appeared to be in the final stages of lung cancer.

But Mr. Cannon survived, and in 1993, then-County Executive Robert R. Neall appointed him to head recreation and parks. He took office in January 1994.

"Joe was an inspiration to us all," County Executive John G. Gary said yesterday. "This county owes him a debt of service."

Mr. Cannon, a Scranton, Pa., native, joined the U.S. Government Printing Office as an apprentice printer in 1962.

He moved to Maryland City in 1964 with his wife, the former Rachel Cardillo. They raised four children there.

After 26 years with the GPO, he became assistant public printer for finance and planning in 1988, the third-highest position in the office.

Until his retirement at the end of 1989, he managed a $1.3 billion budget for the office, testified before Congress and set policy for all GPO financial matters.

Mr. Cannon was "a very good, caring person, especially for the youth of Maryland City," said Donna Appenzeller, a 15-year member of the Maryland City Recreation Council. "He was just an all-around terrific person."

Many of his friends and colleagues described him as their hero in a collection of letters that will be used in a tribute to him, according to daughter Mary Jo Des-kins of Sterling, Va.

"He's not one that ever complained," Ms. Deskins said. "Many people did not have any idea as to what he was experiencing."

Doctors removed a cancerous tumor from Mr. Cannon's kidney in 1983.

In 1986 and again in 1989, they found tumors on his lungs.

He was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 1996 and had only been able to return to work for one week in January, according to Mr. Cuccia.

"You probably will never know how many lives he touched," Mr. Cuccia said. "Hopefully, the man upstairs has an accurate score card."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Cannon is survived by a son, Michael Cannon Jr. of Laurel; two other daughters, Cathy Hayo of Laurel and Natalie Bevan of Crofton; a sister, Carole McCawley of Scranton, and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Joe Cannon Stadium about 9: 30 a.m. tomorrow, after a procession from St. Mary's of the Mill Roman Catholic Church on St. Mary's Place in Laurel.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at the church at 11 a.m.

Contributions may be made to the Friends of Joe Cannon Stadium Scholar/Athlete Fund, Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks, P.O. Box 6675, Annapolis 21401.

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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