Written by Jack Garland Friday, 29 March 2013 00:00
The recent demise of Chris Gannon marked the end of a long life of service and dedication to the people of Mineola. Chris unselfishly gave of his time and energy to numerous church and youth organizations. Although I was sorry to read of his passing, the sight of his name highlighted a specific scene from years ago and brought a smile to my face.
I first knew Mr. Gannon back in my Boy Scout-Little League-Altar Boy days as he was the dad of one of my classmates, Chris Jr., but my most memorable interactions with him occurred a few years later.
During Mass on the first Sunday of each month, there would be an announcement of “a meeting of the Corpus Christi Club this evening at seven o’clock.” Every teenager in Mineola knew that this routine-sounding announcement was actually describing a gathering in the parish hall on Garfield Avenue – usually featuring live music. I was a member of a three-piece rock group and we were often hired to play for these events.
Mr. Gannon was a chaperone for these “meetings” and, invariably, he would be the man with the key to the hall. When we arrived at the scene 20 minutes ahead of time, he would always be there to welcome us with his warm smile and open the hall for us. Oftentimes, the first breath of air inside the hall revealed that the pilot lights on the gas range had gone out (again). Mr. Gannon would attend to the task of re-lighting while we set up our gear.
His hospitality did not end there. Several times during the evening he would come up to the stage to see how we were doing. When we were playing rock music, the sound level made any type of conversation impossible, so it was only during the “slow dances” that our congenial friend came over to chit-chat. Unknown to anyone except the three of us in the band, this presented a bit of a challenge.
As natural-born rockers, we could probably crank out 12-bar blues in the key of E with our eyes closed. Many of the slow songs, however, were more complex and required a tremendous amount of concentration on our part. Whenever we announced a “lady’s choice” and started playing Sentimental Journey or Early Autumn, we knew that we would be getting a visit and were going to be called upon to prove whether or not we were able to “multi-task”, years before the word became part of our vocabulary:
“Everything OK up here, boys?”
“Hi Mr. Gannon. Yeah we’re fine thanks”. (C major seventh, B suspended, B)
“I think the heat’s starting to come up”.
“Feels good”. (B flat major seventh, A suspended, A)
“Nice turnout tonight”.
“Yes sir. Good crowd”. (A flat major seventh, G suspended, G seventh)
“Can I get you fellows some soda?’
“No, we’re fine. Thank you”. (C major seventh, A minor seventh, D minor seventh, G augmented)
Little did he know, but this kind gentleman left us with a little tradition that we carried with us everywhere for the next nine years. We could be playing for a fraternity party in Pennsylvania, and, during a slow song, someone would approach us with a comment or request. We would just look at each other, smile, and say, “Oops, here comes Mr. Gannon!”
Farewell friend. Thank you for being a part of such wonderful memories with your huge smile and generous heart. When the band re-forms in Heaven, we’ll be looking forward to your visit.