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Community Spotlight: Joe Cannon
By Jayme Lucas-Bukszar
Joe Cannon has lived in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood for 89 years; his Brooklyn Ave. home has been owned by his family for 103 years. He graduated from Our Lady of Good Counsel School in 1939 and James Ford Rhodes High School in 1943.
After high school, Joe was drafted into the U.S. Navy for three years. He was present at the invasion of the Marshall Islands; operated with the English fleet in India; went on the U.S.S. Saratoga for the naval bombing of Tokyo, and then to Iwo Jima, where the crew was hit by five kamikaze planes (Japanese suicide bombers).
For twenty-two years after the War, Joe was a travelling salesman for the Cannon Tailoring Company, which was owned by his brother. Then he decided to run for political office and became a member of Cleveland City Council for fourteen years (1975 to 1989), representing the former Wards 2 and 16 in Old Brooklyn during that time.
After his political career ended, Joe took on a project that he is very passionate about. In 1996, he started the “Divine Mercy Committee” which is dedicated to promoting the message of “Divine Mercy ”. The concept of Divine Mercy as a Roman Catholic devotion originated in Poland in the 1930s with reported apparitions of Jesus to Faustina Kowalska, now St. Faustina.
Joe launched the Divine Mercy Committee at a Marian Conference in Cleveland. As part of the event, the Committee commissioned an artist to paint Jesus on a 32’ x 16’ banner in Cleveland’s Public Square. Since then, the group has used the banner in 70 parades across the country. It takes approximately 60 people to carry the banner.
The mostly St. Patrick’s Day parades have been in San Francisco, Chicago, Savannah (1999), Phoenix, Battery Park in New York City, and, of course, Cleveland. At the San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Divine Mercy Committee won the prize for traveling the farthest.
The main way, though, that the Divine Mercy Committee communicates the Divine Mercy message is through billboards with a picture of Jesus and the words “Jesus I trust in You” and “Divine Mercy”.
Over the years Joe’s group has put up approximately 1,000 billboards in 27 states. Currently 50 billboards are up in Columbus, Canton, Akron and Cleveland. Joe raises money for the billboards through fundraising efforts which include an annual fundraiser at Massimo da Milano on W. 25th St.
The project has been very rewarding for Joe. He said, “Before our billboards went up, very little was known about Divine Mercy, and now it’s an important message throughout the country. It’s been wonderful to see organizations on the West Coast replicating what we are doing and sharing their stories with us.”
Joe added that after the first billboard with the group’s name on it was put up, he received a touching phone call. “The nicest lady called me and told me her son was killed at the site where the billboard was. She said she prayed for a sign that he was in heaven and she felt that our billboard was that sign. It was incredibly moving and gratifying for me.”
Joe attends Mary Queen of Peace Catholic Church. The parish blessed the banner when it was still known as Our Lady of Good Counsel, and now Mary Queen of Peace parishioners assist the Divine Mercy Committee with Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Joe would like to thank everyone who has supported him over the years, with special thanks to Don Workman of Ameriflag, Inc., Fran and Wayne Chamberlain, Anna Cardinale and his volunteers from Mary Queen of Peace Parish.
More information about the Divine Mercy Committee can be found online at http://www.divinemercybillboards.us.
(Lynette Filips contributed to this article.)