After almost two decades of school bus driving and being a sports journalist, there is one special blessing that I thank God for daily — my parents.
I’ve witnessed many children over the years who have been raised in abusive homes where drugs and alcohol are valued more than their own offspring — grammar school-age kids whose only meals come when they are in school, or their winter coats, and sometimes other clothes, are provided through charitable programs.
I’ve also had dealings with some who want for nothing, but have had material things substituted for love.
The two bus routes I’ve driven for the past six-plus years have been an interesting dichotomy with children from some of the wealthier neighborhoods mixed with some of the poorer. One thing they have in common, whether a family has money or not, is how easily you can pick out which ones are truly loved at home and which ones are not.
While my family was closer to the lower end of the financial spectrum, there was never any doubt my parents loved us.
How I got chosen to be sent to the family I am a part of I don’t know, but one thing is for sure, I lucked out and am truly thankful the Lord blessed me like he did.
I was the last of four boys born to Gene and Juanita Cannon, a couple whose first love has always been the Lord.
A captain in the Bradley Central band in the early 1940s, Dad was born and raised here, the baby of three children of Roscoe and Mamie Cannon. For the majority of his time in the workforce, he labored for the local church printing companies (Pathway, White Wing, Preston’s).
The next-to-last of David and Elizabeth Wright’s 13 children, Mom is from a small mining town in eastern Missouri. She came to Cleveland at the age of 19 to work as a secretary and bookkeeper at the Church of God of Prophecy’s International Headquarters. While some of her early duties included keeping the books for the construction of Fields of the Woods, later she was the business coordinator for the church’s women’s retreats. She worked there on and off for half a century.
Meeting for the first time the night before Dad shipped off to the Navy in World War II, it wasn’t until his return to Cleveland almost two years later that he really caught her eye.
“His hair was all cut off the first night we met, but it was grown out and curly when he got back. I didn’t realize it was the same boy,” Mom relates.
Seeing him at church, she asked one of her friends who he was. Then she called him to invite him to the church’s youth service. “I was the V.L.B. leader (Victory Leaders Band, the church’s youth group at the time), so I was making sure he felt welcome,” she said with a smile.
They started dating and within two months she and her future mother-in-law were planning a wedding.
Mom and Dad’s wedding on April 4, 1947, was the first service held in the Wildwood Avenue Church of God of Prophecy. “We got married on Good Friday and the congregation had its first service in the building two days later, on Easter,” Mom explains.
With Buddy Gibbons borrowing his father’s car, the couple took a group of seven on their honeymoon trip to Missouri.
Throughout their marriage, the couple not only modeled and taught Christian values to their four sons — Daryl, Jerry, David and myself — but opened their home to numerous other young people and treated them as their own.
My brother David described our mom best a few years ago when he said she has the “spiritual gift of hospitality.”
While our home often housed guests for weeks at a time attending “Bible Training Institute” or conventions or assemblies, one really became a part of the family. My “sister” Darline came from Kansas to live with us while attending and teaching at Tomlinson Memorial School.
A retire local educator, Dr. Darline Bell, as my dad likes to brag, served as principal at McDonald Elementary School for 12 years.
Mom and Dad’s spirit of serving others didn’t limit itself to church matters, as both served terms as president of the Oak Grove Elementary PAT, plus Dad worked with the Civil Patrol for many years. He also served as the building committee chairman for the construction of the Peerless Road Church, when the congregation moved from Wildwood Avenue to its current location in 1974.
For many years my mom raised her “missionary money” by baking and decorating beautiful wedding cakes. She also reached out to assist a family who lived way up in the mountains past Reliance. She’d pick up the mother and daughter, who had leg braces to help her walk, and take them to Chattanooga for doctors’ appointments.
They even turned personal family tragedy into a way to minister to others who were going through the same situations.
There are too many examples of their kindness for me to list in this small space, but numerous people, from all walks of life, have commented to me about how wonderful my parents are and proceed to tell me stories.
At 87 and 85 (Mom preferring a younger man), my parents have not only passed on their Christian and family values to each person they’ve come in contact with, they are truly what Christ asks all of us to be — a light unto the world.
Happy 65th wedding anniversary, Mom and Dad! Thanks for lighting up my world. I love you and am proud to be known as your son.