Cannon, a 1940 graduate of West Virginia University, first taught at Osage Junior High School in Osage, West Virginia, and later attended a graduate program at the University of Wisconsin, where she studied under legendary nutritionist, Dr. Helen Tracy Parsons. Cannon met her future husband, Bob, on campus and married after his graduation, just ten hours short of her PhD. She never had any regrets.
The newlywed Cannons ended up in Auburn in 1948 when Bob became a professor of animal and dairy science. In 1955, when Auburn's Extension Service changed its image with the newly created Alabama ETV, Cannon found herself hosting the long-running “Today's Home.” Over the years Cannon hosted many well-known guests, including actor Vincent Price, comedian Bob Hope, pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock and fashion designer Nolan Miller. At a Women in Radio and Television meeting in NYC, not only did she interview Ginger Rogers, but, she and Bob were asked to dance in her penthouse.
Over the years, Cannon also wrote food columns for the Montgomery Advertiser and the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. She authored three books: “Today's Home: Ideas from Lee Cannon,” the “Southern Living Quick and Easy Recipes” cookbook and the textbook “Menu Celebrations.”
In retirement, Cannon stayed active with involvement in numerous activities, both locally and nationally. She studied writing through Auburn University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in which she wrote much on her childhood, 7 siblings and Italian immigrant parents.
Every year Cannon attended the International Quality of Life Awards (IQLA) Banquet in NYC, through which she met her distinguished colleague, Julia Child.
In 2010, at the 17th annual IQLA banquet, Cannon was pleased to get a “shout-out” from PBS’s president and CEO Paula Kerger. Kerger told Cannon she’d been “wanting to meet her for a long time” and later told the audience, “Lee Cannon had the longest running home show in history on public television!"
Kerger's comments were later dittoed at the podium by veteran journalist Bill Moyers and former Alabama governor Bob Riley. That Christmas, the Rileys were among hundreds of others between Auburn and Montgomery, who received jars of Cannon's legendary specialty, hot pepper “jamelly." Cannon always said, "It's not jam and it's not jelly."
Cannon once told a friend, “Stay active, keep busy, and always do your own housework!” This philosophy plus her energy and enthusiasm and her generosity to those around her were the secret ingredients of her longevity.
Cannon was born to Philonema and Emil Ferrara in Morgantown, West Virginia, October 12, 1918. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Bob Cannon; and six of her seven siblings. She is survived by her three children, Emilie Johnson, Robert Cannon, Jr. (Ruth) and Leigh Allbrook (William); six grandchildren, Staff Sargent Christopher Johnson (Laurie), Keith Johnson (Chelsea), Kenneth Cannon (Jennifer), Emilie Dempsey (Tanner), Samantha Allbrook and Kate Allbrook; and 2 great-grandchildren, Addison and Brooke Johnson.
There will be a wake to celebrate her life at Cannon's home in Auburn, on Tuesday, May 13, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. The funeral Mass will be Thursday, May 15, at 10 a.m. at St. Michael's Catholic Church.
Gifts in honor of Lee Cannon may be made to St. Michael's Building Fund (1100 N. College St., Auburn, AL 36830) and the Auburn University Foundation for the Lee and Bob Cannon Nutrition Scholarship or the Woman's Philanthropy Board (CHS Development Office, 210 Spidle Hall, Auburn, AL 36849, or call Julia Llanes at 334-844-3814).
Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home., Opelika; 334-749-8700