The two met in 1941 in her home state of Georgia when Cannon was 14 years old.
Her family had just bought a new home. A few days before they moved in, they were standing outside admiring it when a young man rode up on a bicycle.
“He went up to my dad and said, ‘My name is John Cannon. I’m your paper carrier. Would you like to take the paper?’ Well, I thought he was so cute,” Cannon said, smiling like the schoolgirl she once was.
Since the teens attended separate schools and churches, they had no opportunity to pursue their relationship further until John dropped out on his 17th birthday in order to join the Navy and fight against the Axis Powers.
John wrote to her from a camp in the Great Lakes. Cannon, then 15, asked for her mother’s permission before writing him back.
They corresponded for four years. By the time World War II ended, Jeanne Cannon had finished high school and two years of college.
She had also become engaged to another young man whose family had been among her parents’ closest friends since the two were children.
After asking for her hand in marriage when she was 17, he had agreed to a long engagement so that Cannon could enroll in college and he could get established in the family business.
John Cannon quickly made her doubt her decision about the future when he called after returning from the Pacific Theatre and then paid her a visit.
“John was frozen in my mind as the paper boy. There stood this tall, good-looking sailor. I liked to have died. He took my breath away,” Cannon said.
Although Cannon had agreed to marry someone else, she had not yet accepted a ring. (She did, however, have her fiancé’s jeweled fraternity pin.)
The engagement had not been formally announced, but the time to do so was drawing near when John walked back into her life.
After debating for days whether to marry the man she was promised to or the one she felt drawn to, Cannon decided to elope to Alabama with John.
Instead of the large society wedding that her mother was already planning, Cannon exchanged vows in front of a justice of the peace at the courthouse in Heflin.
When Cannon returned from her honeymoon 10 days later, her parents had quietly broken off the other engagement, published the announcement of their daughter’s marriage in the local paper and organized a large reception in honor of the newlyweds.
“Bless their loving hearts. What they ever said to my fiancé and that family I will never know,” Cannon said.
Cannon’s father insisted that his daughter be married by a minister. John agreed on the condition that his new in-laws accept that he and Cannon were already man and wife.
“Just before this huge reception, our minister came in and did the whole ceremony in front of our families. When he came to the end where you normally say, ‘I pronounce you man and wife,’ he said, ‘I confirm this marriage.’ I always thought that was so special,” Cannon said.
John became a Presbyterian minister himself. After several years, he felt God calling him into counseling.
Cannon said that although she loved being a pastor’s wife, she supported her husband. Her only request was that they “go somewhere fun” while he pursued his degree.
They selected a Baptist university near Daytona Beach. They loved the area so much that they stayed for 30 years.
Cannon has decorated every room of her apartment at the Terrace in a beach theme to remind her of the many memories from that time in her life.
Cannon came to Jasper in December, less than a year after the death of her beloved husband.
“Everywhere I looked, I saw John. I thought, ‘I need to move, but I’m not ready for assisted living,’” Cannon said.
Cannon selected the Terrace because it is close to her granddaughter, Melanie Turner, a teacher at West Jasper Elementary School.
Cannon said although she never considered spending her final years in Alabama, it seemed fitting once she realized that three of the most important events in her life are tied to the state.
“I was baptized in Alabama as a child. I was married in Alabama, and I will likely die in Alabama,” Cannon said.
Cannon said she has come to love Jasper because while it is not as picturesque as her hometown of Covington, Ga., there is a sense of pride in the community that she has never encountered anywhere else.
Cannon now feels so at home here that she makes a point of visiting others who move to the Terrace to make them feel welcome.
Although Cannon’s life has taken numerous twists and turns, Cannon said as she sat reminiscing last week that one thing has never changed.
“God gave me a cup of joy when I was born, and He has never taken it away,” Cannon said. “Throughout my entire life, there has been joy. It’s not easy to grow old, but each day when I wake up, I tell myself, ‘This is the day the Lord hath made. Jeanne, it’s up to you to rejoice and be glad in it.”