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When I first started working at Phalanx Family Services in 2005, the organization was just 2 years old. In one of my first positions, I worked as the front desk receptionist. Even though I heard her voice nearly every single day, because she helmed the organization remotely from her executive position with the Boys & Girls Clubs, it took me a full two years to actually meet the CEO, Tina Sanders. I felt like I was working for Charlie’s Angels.
For several years longer than that, I had been hearing of “The Legend of James Cannon” and how much he meant to Phalanx. He literally sounded like a swashbuckler out of the golden era of film — only in the workforce industry. When I finally met him, it’s incredible to say it, but he fulfilled everything I had heard about the swift, clever, charming, dashing “Maverick” (my word — I’m sure if you looked it up in the dictionary, you’d find his face right next to it).
After years of hearing about James Cannon, and after even more years of observing him from afar, as fate would have it, we became friends. On top of all the larger-than-life mystique, what really took me by surprise was that he was such a genuinely nice guy. He was always up. (Sidebar: It annoyed and tickled me that he used more “exclamation marks” than ‘periods’ in his writing).
He was sensitive, compassionate, kind, and really cared about people. In fact, it’s how he even got started in all of this, helping parents with children in the system achieve financial stability and get their children back. It was a paradox that a Mother Theresa could exist in the body of such a rascal (because as intensely as he enjoyed helping people improve their lot through jobs and employment, he just as intensely enjoyed enjoying life – he was such a rascal!) Now, he wouldn’t give you his famous cowboy hats or his cowboy boots, but he would literally give you the shirt off his back if it kept you from suffering another moment.
The world lost a good one. He knew, and respected, everybody, and everybody knew and respected him. He has done so much for so very many, as in helping tens of thousands of people go to work, I always felt they should name a street after him (hint, hint). I’m going to miss my mentor and friend. And, as a Buddhist, I’m going to chant Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Law of Cause & Effect in Old Japanese, and make offerings for his eternal life with the full expectation that when we meet again because we most certainly will, he’ll be striking up the party even more than before!
Written by Ramone Giles
Edited by Sheena Robertson