M. Joseph Cannon His devotion to recreation and kids was as strong as his will to live.

February 10, 1997

SEVEN YEARS AGO, M. Joseph Cannon was believed to be on death's door. Anne Arundel County officials scrambled to honor him for his longtime service to local youth athletic leagues and for his guidance on the county's Recreation and Parks Advisory Board.

He had already battled cancer for nearly seven years then. It was in 1983 that doctors discovered a cancerous tumor on his left kidney. For three years after surgery to remove it, Mr. Cannon endured a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. It appeared as though his cancer was at bay, but an X-ray revealed a new lesion on his lung. Recovery seemed futile, but Mr. Cannon, ever determined, decided to participate in an experimental treatment involving interferon. His condition improved, then worsened again. By 1990, it appeared he had lost the battle.

County officials decided to name a 1,600-seat baseball park in Harmans after him. Their only wish was that Mr. Cannon would live long enough to participate in the ceremony. Wracked with pain, he listened at the ribbon-cutting to the many accolades he richly deserved. He did more than that: He recovered sufficiently to begin a second career as head of the county Recreation and Parks Department four years ago, overseeing the re-opening of the skating rink at Annapolis' Quiet Waters Park and the creation of other parks and facilities.

Although he was not athletic himself -- he joked about being cut from the basketball team while growing up in Scranton, Pa. -- Mr. Cannon understood the value of organized sports for children.

While rising at the U.S. Government Printing Office, where he eventually became the third-highest ranking official, he organized youth leagues in his Maryland City community in his spare time. In the early 1960s, Mr. Cannon and Buzz Platt formed the Anne Arundel Football Association. It has provided tens of thousands of boys the opportunity to play organized football.

The cancer that he fought off for years returned last summer. Last week, it claimed his life at age 61. Mr. Cannon can no longer bless us with his buoyant optimism and generous spirit, but he left a legacy that Anne Arundel citizens will enjoy for decades to come.

Pub Date: 2/10/97

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