When I was a kid one of my best friends was Jay–or Gerald Shannon, Jr. His father, Mr. Shannon (if I saw him today, I’d still call him that), was a cool guy, I always thought. A hard working dude, he was a forester in Springfield. Even in the mid-late 1970s, when he was in his late-30s (he seemed much older then), his body was beat-up from his work. As I recall, he had a bad back that barked at him (as Jay does today, because of the same type of work). I don’t know if this is true, but I remember Mr. Shannon has being a large guy, around 6’1″, not fat, but thick like a lumberjack. That’s what I thought back then, looking at him with his thick beard of red, blond, and gray hair: this man looks like he wrestles trees for a living. And he did. Looking at Jay today, you can tell he comes from that stock.
Mr. Shannon liked taking apart and fixing things, or building new stuff. He seemed to enjoy being self sufficient. I remember going into the basement as Mr. Shannon was building his new heating system. He installed a wood burning stove that replaced the oil burner, patching the stove right into the existing duct work, and saved the family a lot of money. That was cool. And he built his own garage next to the house so he could work on his various projects year-round, including his black, 4 door 1956 Chevrolet Bel-Air and Ford truck, all kept in top condition. I think that garage was sort of a refuge for Mr. Shannon. Jay and I had our own projects that we worked on together, mostly involving building BMX bikes using frames we found in a local junk yard, but for the most part Mr. Shannon had us work in his old workshop. And I don’t think he wanted us borrowing his tools (I remember having to buy my own 10″ Crescent wrench for our bike work). He was helpful with advice, but we did our thing and he did his.
Last night my mother left a message telling me that Mr. Shannon had died a couple of months ago. I want to thank Mr. Shannon for being one those other male authority figures that boys need in their lives. He wasn’t my father, but a neighborhood dad that watched over the kids.
Here’s an excerpt of the obituary that appeared in the Springfield Republican on 3/13/2007:
Gerald J. “Jerry” Shannon, Sr., 64, a longtime resident of the Hungry Hill section of Springfield, died on Monday March 12, 2007 at home. He was born in Springfield on December 2, 1942 a son of the late Robert J. and Alice (Martin) Shannon and was a graduate of Our Lady of Hope School and Cathedral High School, both in Springfield. Jerry was employed for 37 years with the City of Springfield and retired in June of 2002 as the foreman of the Springfield Park Department’s Forestry Division. He was a communicant of Our Lady of Hope Church and was a member of the John Boyle O’Reilly Club, both in Springfield. Jerry also was a member of the National Hot Rod Association. He loved fishing and was often found on his boat “DUNCUTTIN”, and enjoyed playing poker slot machines and restoring automobiles. Jerry served in the Army National Guard and also was a boy scout. He will be truly missed by all who knew him. Jerry is survived by his wife of 42 years, Carol (Maharne) Shannon; and leaves four children, Gerald J. Shannon, Jr. and his wife Bonnie Jean, Carlene M. Shannon, and Timothy J. Shannon, Sr. and his wife Gina, all of Springfield, and Sean P. Shannon and his wife Karen of Ware; his four grandchildren, Kaitlyn Shannon, Patrick Cox, Nicholas Shannon, and Timothy J. Shannon, Jr.; his brother, Robert J. Shannon, Sr. of Florida; and his many nieces and nephews.
I read that, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the hell “Duncuttin” was supposed to mean! I thought is was some Gaelic word, or had some Irish meaning, but Google came up with nothing. Mr. Shannon liked Irish music and reveled in his Irish heritage (back in the day, I think one of his favorite bands was The Dustmen). Then it dawned on me: duncuttin=done cutting. I’m glad he found some time to enjoy his life without cutting trees, but I’m sure his family wishes he still had more time.