Before he died, Steve asked his friend Tom Mischke to write a personal piece about him as a way to connect with family and friends after his passing.
“I wanted to be somebody,” Steven Cannon once said when talking about coming of age on the Iron Range in Eveleth, Minnesota. Life there was colorful but arduous and, at times, unrewarding. The depression, the war years, the possibility of spending ones career in the mines sent a young man’s imagination in search of something better, something brighter.
We define “being somebody” differently. For Steve it meant a life of consequence, being where the action was, being a player. That’s what he dreamed of. His heroes were actors, jazz musicians, comedians and radio personalities. They existed where the lights shone brightest and he wanted to feel some of that glow.
If there was one dominant trait the young Iron Ranger had leaving Northern Minnesota it was confidence, a characteristic that would serve him throughout his career. He had an unwavering belief in himself, and like so many Rangers who rebelled against the notion of life in the mines, he was powerfully driven to be something more.
A lifetime later, looking back on his 81 years from his bed in his Lake of the Isles home, knowing his time was short, Steve had much to be grateful for. He did escape the mines, he did find the lights. He became the single most successful radio personality the state of Minnesota has ever known. He rubbed shoulders with people a young boy growing up in Eveleth would hardly expect to see in person, let alone call a peer.
But he had much more than that. He had a lifetime love still at his side in his lovely wife Geri, and he had Bart and Lynn beside him as well, two children he adored and who adored him. Steve had grandchildren who delighted him, close brothers still very much in his life, friends who truly admired him.
He had a good life, and a sign of that good life was how much he wanted to continue it. Steve loved living. The cancer diagnosis was most “annoying” to him he would say because it got in the way of an interesting world still fascinating and enriching. However, Steve was also a dyed-in-the-wool realist. If there was nothing more the doctors could do, then so be it. The next step was simply to live out the remaining months with dignity and grace.
That’s exactly how Steve’s last season on earth played out. Those who witnessed it marveled at the effortless switch from the passionate desire to live, to the willing acceptance of death.
It was a wondrous 81-year adventure. For those who knew Steve, so many images flash through the mind thinking back over those years: the boy on the Range, toughened by hard economic times, and by growing up the lone Jewish kid in his class, the young man in a hurry heading off to the Navy, to the University of Minnesota, yearning to make his mark, the actor who thought drama would be his career before deciding his calling was in a related but alternate field, the man from the sticks who wanted the city to seep deep into his bones, with its live jazz, its theater, its glamorous restaurants and bars, and its professional sports.
If you sat with Steve in recent years, however, his stories of making it were always interspersed with tales of raising a family with Geri. Stories of Bart and Lynn were as enjoyable for him to tell as any yarn spun from his days in radio, and indeed were as delightful to listen to. You saw the love for them come through as his eyes would brighten and his smile would reveal that fatherly affection. He would talk of the life he and Geri lived as a marvelous odyssey, one they shared and appreciated together.
Many who remember Steve would agree a certain description does justice to him in a way others cannot. No matter from which perspective you viewed him, as father, brother, husband, friend, no matter what side of the man you dwell on, entertainer, student of politics, lover of film, tennis partner, sports fan, the man was an honest to God original. He was his own person. He knew exactly who he was, and if you spent any time with him at all, you soon knew as well—a straight shooter, a man who had no time for b.s. He could be cantankerous, stubborn, and certainly a pain to negotiate with if you were a radio station manager. But take all that away and he wouldn’t have been Steve Cannon. He knew his shortcomings. He wouldn’t have disagreed with you if you pointed them out. And that trait was endearing as well.
Steve Cannon is no longer with us, and now we’re left missing him terribly. But like our friends and family who depart ahead of us we have our fond memories, and whatever parts we chose to hold deep inside ourselves, keeping a human spirit alive.
The state of Minnesota has lost a treasure, a piece of its history; The New Yorker magazine has lost its most faithful reader; Ma Linger, Backlash LaRue and Morgan Mundane have lost their puppet master.
But the rest of us, his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his brothers, his friends, we’ve lost something more. Steve said, towards the end, the hardest part of dying was seeing how hard it was, emotionally, on other people. It was painful, he said, to see others so sad. But our sadness is one way we can honor his life. It broke our hearts to see him go. That says as much about the man as any words can.
On Steve’s last night, he rested quietly on his bed in the dining room of the home he loved, his wife and children beside him. The Twins home opener played softly nearby and Steve’s breathing continued until all nine innings were complete. Then he passed away.
If you knew Steve’s love for a good story, you’d know he would have smiled at this fitting setting for the close of his life’s narrative.
Rest well, Steve Cannon. You were loved.