I first saw him standing on the steps of the Music Building. I’d heard quite a bit about what a sharp guy he was, and a couple of people had asked me if I wanted to be lined up with him, but I’d never laid eyes on him until that moment. He was in a light tan soft leather jacket, not the kind motorcyclists wear, but the kind hunters wear in very cold climates. It set off his baby face and rosy cheeks very well. In those days, his cheeks were always rosy, especially when it was cold. And that day, it was cold. I knew right then that, yes, I would like to be lined up with Jim Cannon.
It was one December day, while I was working at the Reserve Desk at the U of U Library, that the phone rang and Mrs. Musser, my boss, said it was for me. I was shocked to hear an unfamiliar voice asking me out on a date while I was at work. My first thought was that, “Wow, this guy really has a lot of nerve calling me at work when he’s never even met me.” But accept I did and we went to a basketball game at the old U of U Field House. It was December 21st, 1963.
I remember having a great time and thinking he was good looking, fun, bright, an excellent conversationalist, and seemed to have some real depth. At the end of the evening, I was again amazed at his confidence when he asked me to an organ concert on Christmas Eve. You don’t spend Christmas Eve with just anyone, you know….and we had just met.
Christmas Eve was good, though. I was involved in a Sub for Santa project right up until 10:00 P.M. when the doorbell rang, immediately followed by the sounds of “Joy to the World.” As usual, I was far from ready, but Dad bought me a little time, much to my embarrassment, when he answered the door and joined in their caroling with his booming bass voice and impressive size, blasting them right off the front porch. One thing that amazed me then and forever after was Jim’s self-possession in the presence of one of the most intimidating individuals on the planet…my father. Dad was notorious for scaring off even the bravest of suitors. But not Jim, who stood boldly forth, singing back in his melodious tenor range, while Dad continued to show off his own incredible bass talent. They looked like David and Goliath together, and actually that is not a bad comparison in more ways than one. Jim never even seemed to be aware that Dad was frightening.
As soon as he opened the car door and I caught sight of Marynel Garff (Thorley’s) foot, I knew I had blown it. The foot had on nylon stockings and fancy heels. Her date, Dick Hinckley, had on a suit and tie, as did Jim. I looked like the cleaning lady in my levi skirt, bobby socks and saddle oxfords. It had never occurred to me that this would be a fancy date.
We did three things that night: we went caroling to the homes of several German people who had joined the church, because we were doubling then and ever since, with Jim’s German missionary group. Caroling in the dark, snowy night, my garb didn’t matter much until we got to the church for the organ concert. In those days, people dressed up for such things! I was out of place, but the worst was yet to come. The third and last thing we did was to go back to Jim’s house for refreshments…..and meet his mother, Grandma Beth. By then, the group was teasing me mercilessly about the footwear. I remember using the throw pillows on Cannon’s couch to cover my feet.
I didn’t realize then how young 49 was, but Beth was just 49 and very recently widowed, Grandpa Ted having passed away just 1 month earlier. Though I hardly knew them, I remember feeling a twinge of sadness for this little family, their first Christmas without a husband and father. That was another thing that impressed me about Jim. He was so open and willing to share his feelings about his father---- his tragic death, and even his tragic life. I was equally impressed with his concern for his mother. I was not unaware that we were there in that home at that time, partly to help fill the void that surely was present.
My mother, Grandma Phyllis, never stood still…she was in constant motion. But it was soon after that night that I was in the kitchen ironing. While madly working over the stove, she stopped abruptly and asked, “So, what do you think of ‘this fellow’?” I remember saying, “He might be the sharpest person I have ever been out with.” Her face lit up with excitement…like maybe something big was about to happen. She began to grill me on the specifics of that sentence.
I shared with her some of the qualities I loved about Jim then as well as now: his looks, his intellect, his humor, and how he treated me. I also sensed a maturity about him that I later realized, came partly from filling in as a father figure for his family in the wake of his Dad’s alcoholism. Not to mention he had just been through the refining experience of burying that father, and processing all that goes into losing a parent. And another big factor was the spiritual aura that surrounds recently returned missionaries. He had that aura. I was attracted.