Saturday, April 10, 2010

William W. Cannon

My father, William Wareing Cannon (Bill), was born on April 10, 1925 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of Edwin Quayle Cannon and Luella Wareing Cannon. If Bill were alive, we would be celebrating his 85th birthday today. I’ve put together a very incomplete biography, but rather than wait to finish it, I’m going to post it and I can add to it later. Much of what is written below originally came from him orally and then much of what is written was shared with him before his death. So I am reasonably confident in its accuracy.

While age four, Bill went with the family on a car trip back to Rhode Island, the subject of another post. Below, Bill at age four.
Another picture from his early youth.
And another.
Bill got his Eagle Scout award at age 13, as I recall, one of the youngest to receive it at that time. Below, Bill with Ed and Luella.
Bill as a new Eagle Scout
In August 1943, while age 18, Bill was hit by a taxi cab in Chicago while attending the Illinois Institute of Technology. He had a broken leg in two places, a broken arm, a broken rib and a concussion. The doctor did not believe he would live. The accident caused him to miss two semesters of school. He would have graduated in July of 1945 (World War II ended in August 1945) if the accident had not set him back. Below, Bill in 1943.
In October 1945, Bill’s cousin, Elaine Fitzpatrick, was head of The Pen, a literary magazine at the University of Utah. She knew my mother, Margery Sorensen (Marg) as a fellow Chi Omega. Elaine lined them up for a date while Bill was back from Chicago on leave. Marg knew Bill had been dating Joyce Evans, who was very cute, and figured that Bill had to be pretty good to date her. Marg, Bill, Elaine and another cousin met in Elaine’s office at the University and went on a drive up to Little Mountain, up Emigration Canyon. On the drive back down the canyon, Bill held Marg’s hand and they both described this as the time they knew they were first in love. At the end of the week of Bill’s leave, Marg and Bill accompanied Nonie Warner (who later married Marg’s twin brother, Maynard Sorensen) and Whitney Clayton, who were then engaged, to BYU to a Halloween Dance. On the drive down, they passed the Scera Theater in Orem which was playing Anchors Away with Gene Kelley. They stopped, part way through the movie, and were let in free because Bill was wearing his Navy uniform. By the time the movie ended, the dance was over, so they danced in the street to the sound of the car radio. Below, Bill in his Navy uniform.
Another picture, perhaps a little older.
Bill was home from Chicago again for a week at Christmas. On Wednesday of that week, Bill asked Marg if she would wear his fraternity pin, which at that time was like an engagement ring. They had only met each others parents once and Marg felt it was too soon. Later that week, on Sunday, after listening to the Messiah broadcast on the car radio, Marg realized she did not want to date anymore and said to Bill, “If you still want me to take your pin – I will.” That evening, while eating dinner with Bill’s parents, Ed and Luella, they did not notice the pin on Marg and had to be told.

In February 1946, Marg went with Ed and Luella back to Chicago where Bill received his commission and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology on February 23, 1946. While with them, Marg had family prayer for the first time and was impressed.

Bill had been in the last V-12 program, and because of his accident, it was no longer available to him. So he was given a choice to choose a line job in the Navy, which would have involved four months at sea (which most of his peers chose), or a job in the supply corps (the business end of the Navy), which he chose. He attended the last class of the Navy Supply School at the Harvard Graduate School of Business from May through June, 1946. By that time, he had earned enough points to get out of the Navy. However, he felt he owed an obligation to the Navy, so he enlisted in the Navy Reserves.

Bill never really proposed to Marg . They discussed a marriage date of September 7th, Ed’s birthday. But Marg wanted her own day and suggested Friday the 13th. So Marg and Bill were married on September 13, 1946 in the Salt Lake Temple. For their honeymoon, they went as representatives of the Salt Lake Stamp Company to the Marking Device Association meeting in Chicago and stayed at the Edgewater Beach Hotel.

Bill intended to attend graduate engineering school at the University of Utah in the fall of 1946, but because of the large influx of students because of the end of the World War II, there were not enough teachers. So he was pressed into teaching engineering mechanics at the University instead.

During that year, Bill’s uncle, William Tenney Cannon, was returning home from Hawaii where he served as director of the Visitor’s Center at the Hawaii Temple. He contacted David O. McKay, then a counselor to President George Albert Smith, and told him that teachers in the Religious Instruction program were needed (the precursor to the seminary program) in Hawaii and he suggested that his nephew, Bill Cannon, was perfect for the job. The Religious Instruction program was where students were taught the gospel during released time from school. President McKay issued a call to Marg and Bill to teach in the Religious Instruction program in Hawaii. When Dean Taylor of the Engineering program at the University of Utah found out, he lobbied Ed and Luella with the idea that Bill could do more good by teaching at the University and getting a Ph.D, than by going to Hawaii. Bill felt he wanted to do something for the Church and despite some pressure not to go, he decided to go to Hawaii. He was promised there would be a position for him in the engineering department at the University when he got back.

In April 1947, Marg and Bill traveled to Wailuku, Maui, the headquarters of the Hawaii Mission, where they started teaching. Because of Bill’s training at Harvard, he was asked by the Mission President, Castle Murphy, to be the Mission Secretary and Marg continued to teach. In June 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision which, in effect, outlawed the Religious Instruction program, so the Church disbanded the program. About that time, Castle Murphy was released and E. Wesley Smith became the new Mission President. E. Wesley Smith asked Marg and Bill to stay as missionaries. Bill continued on as Mission Secretary and Marg was called as the Mission Recorder. They lived in a home adjacent to the Smiths and were with them almost every evening and grew very close to them. Michael was born in Wailuku, Maui on October 28, 1947. In April 1948, Bill was called as a counselor to President Smith. Up until that time, the Mission President had no counselors. At that time, a missionary and a local resident were both called as counselors. With the new assignment, Marg and Bill were assigned to Kauai. While there, Marg learned that she was pregnant again and volunteered to return home at the end of 18 months in October 1948 to have her second child. President Smith acquiesced, but Marg suggested that Bill finish the remaining six months of the mission. Marg returned home on October 28, 1948, Mike’s first birthday, to have David, who was born on January 6, 1949.

By that time the Mission office had moved from Wailuku to Honolulu. Bill moved into a garage near the Honolulu Tabernacle. He had no companion. He traveled alone on special assignments for the Mission President the last six months, traveling to all the islands at least once and also writing the procedures manual for the mission which was used in the mission up until the Church adopted the churchwide Handbook of Instructions.

Bill returned home in April 1949, three months after David was born. They lived in the duplex next to Ed and Luella on 5th Avenue (where Mike and his wife, Patty, later lived when they were first married). In September 1949, Bill began to teach at the University of Utah as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and also took courses towards a Masters degree. In August 1950, he received his Masters degree in Engineering Mechanics and thereafter contracted with the University as a full Instructor for the year of 1950 to 1951. Bill enjoyed teaching and intended to get a Ph.D and continue to teach. Merv Hogan, a professor at the U, thought highly of the University of Michigan program and enouraged Bill to get his Ph.D there.

At some point, Marg and Bill moved to a home just east of Ethel and Horace Sorensen, Marg’s parents, on Conner Street.

In the fall of 1950, Ed and Luella were called to preside over the West German Mission. Ed was having problems with the Panniers, minority shareholders in the Salt Lake Stamp Company, and asked Bill and his brother, Ted, to step in and preserve his interest while he was gone.

In February 1951, Marg and Bill moved to 518 9th Avenue (where they lived when I was born). In order to make ends meet, they rented out the basement. Tenants included Clarence Wilson (and his family), a salesman at Salt Lake Stamp Co. whom I got to know later when I worked at the Stamp Company.

When Bill’s contract for teaching at the U expired in June 1951, he went to work at the Stamp Company. In the early 1950’s, Bill and Ted each purchased a 15% interest in the Stamp Company from Ed’s brother, William T. Cannon, and became shareholders with their father. Ed retained 30%, and the Panniers had 40%.

In 1961, Marg and Bill moved into a new home at 470 Northmont Way, high on the Avenues.

For 2 ½ years, from 1965 to 1967, Bill was Bishop of the University 13th Ward.

Bill served as President of the Hawaii Honolulu Mission from July 1975 to July 1978.

About 1980, Marg and Bill moved to Holladay to get Chris into a new group of friends and a new school.

In about 1986, Bill sold his interest in the Stamp Company to his brother, Ted, and he went to work for Zions Securities Corporation, first as residential division manager, then as operations manager for the Hawaii Division, then as vice president of Hawaii Reserves, the successor to the Hawaii Division. In 1992, Bill and Marg moved back to Hawaii for the third time, living for 1 ½ years in a house owned by Hawaii Reserves on the beach in Hauula.

In about 1992, Bill retired. After some time, he went to work for Okland Construction Co. where he served as president of Business Development for three years.

Bill served for three years as a member of the Salt Lake City Board of Education and for two years as a member of the Utah State Board of Education, both elected positions.

Bill was a member of the Salt Lake Rotary Club, the Salt Lake Exchange Club, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Timpanogas Club, the Bonneville Knife and Fork Club, the Cannon-Hinckley Church History group, the Utah Manufacturers Association and the Marking Device Manufacturers Association.

For the last year and a half before his death, Bill and Marg served as ordinance workers in the Salt Lake Temple. Prior to that, he served as a member of the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA General Board. Bill died in Salt Lake City on June 19, 2002.


  1. Nice Post Bob .... another week and it's your turn!

  2. What a lot of things crammed into one life. Laid out like this, you really see Dad's commitment to his family and the Church. Those are the two things that directed the course of his life.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful post on your father. I served under him in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission and came to love and admire your father (and mother) deeply. He has been a tremendous influence for good in my life.

  4. I knew the Cannons when they were presiding over the Honolulu Mission. They visited our island of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, where they gave us tremendous support and encouragement. They are two of the finest people I have ever known!