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James Cannon, a valued member of The News School and Phalanx Family Services, passed away on July 11, 2022 — five days after his 66th birthday. Memories of his contributions to the community, his laughter, and his smile conjure warm feelings that will continue to resonate with those who knew him.
Cannon dedicated his life to making significant, positive, concrete changes in his community and for Chicago’s youth. His passion for making a difference will continue to affect people for years.
“It is with a heavy heart that I announce that last month we lost a dear friend, collaborator, and member of the Phalanx family. James Cannon, longtime Workforce Development Consultant of Phalanx Family Services passed away on July 11, a mere five days after his 66 th birthday. Because he had been such an integral part of Phalanx, it is difficult to put into words just what he meant to me, my husband Gladstone and this organization. Every single one of our employees brings something special to the table that makes Phalanx operate at the level that we do. But arguably, James Cannon was one of the most important influences on the success of this organization, literally before its inception and throughout its entire existence.”
“James Cannon had been a workforce consultant with the Office of Employment Services that I led within the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago in the 90s. His talent in securing volumes of job opportunities for the disadvantaged was legendary. His work, ingenuity, and relationships made the Office of Employment Services a resounding success. That, coupled with the vision my husband, Gladstone, and I had for a new way of helping people go to work, would eventually lead to the formation of Phalanx Family Services.”
Over the past 19 years since Phalanx Family Services was founded in 2003 to this very day, James Cannon has literally brought thousands of job opportunities, several essential relationships, and millions of dollars in funding to this organization. From the State Homelessness Prevention program, 2008’s Put Illinois to Work, and The News School, which he helped found, James Cannon played a critical role in ensuring that Phalanx was at the table for several significant public and private sector opportunities and initiatives. True to his trademark saying, “I make it do what it do!” he was all about making significant, positive, and concrete things happen for those in need.”
“On a more personal level, James Cannon was a trailblazer in every sense of the word and absolutely marched to the beat of his own drummer. He was never without his trademark cowboy hats and boots and infectious laugh and smile. His friendships and relationships stretched far and wide, no doubt because of his charm, easy demeanor, and honest way with people. He was a charmer who loved life and loved people. And, so very many people sincerely loved him.”
“James Cannon was a colorful and vital part of the Phalanx Family constellation who will be sorely missed. He was a unique and highly impactful individual who was larger than life every day. How many of us can say that?’
– Tina Sanders; CEO of Phalanx Family Services
“Mr. Cannon was always instrumental in helping youth find employment. He’s helped several youths find jobs in factories, construction sites, and fashion boutiques. A few years ago, he helped a youth client who had been heavily involved in street lifestyle land an internship with a construction company. That internship influenced this individual to earn a CDL license. Thanks to James Cannon, this individual is now a certified truck driver who is no longer involved in street life and is able to provide for his family and make an honest living. That is just one story of many for whom James Cannon has made a difference.”
– Darren Heard
“I was there back in the ’90s when James Cannon was first brought on to the Boys & Girls Clubs as a consultant for the Office of Employment Services. He completely turned that program around. He spoke from the hip, pulled no punches, and didn’t like sitting in an office or coming to meetings, but he could find jobs like no other. Later on, that office would become Phalanx Family Services. There was a long period of time when James Cannon was out of the picture, but his legend and his influence were never far. When he reemerged, it was like he never left, only to return stronger than before. I’m really grateful for all the doors James Cannon opened up for our clients and this organization over the decades and will miss him so much.”
– Misty Lenon
“My friend and co-worker, James Cannon, you are going to be truly missed. You always applied a lot of uniqueness and imagination to the enormous task of creating employment opportunities for our clients. I especially remember the times we spent together placing clients into suburban jobs that didn’t have transportation to travel to the suburbs. You worked it out. You arranged transportation to and from the worksite to accommodate our clients on all the shifts. The lives of all these individuals improved because of your ingenuity. Many peoples’ lives are better just from having known you. You and your memory are a blessing to us all.”
– Hugo Davis; Co-Worker & Friend
His family, friends, colleagues, and community members will greatly miss Cannon. So many people will continue to open pathways for people in his honor. May he rest in peace.
Written by Phalanx Family Services Staff and Sheena Robertson