Friday, October 26, 2012


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

I think I speak for all the Swaggers who participated in the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge when I say we’ve enjoyed it. It was a great way to keep our creative juices flowing, and it was a kick to see the way the rest of you handled it. Kudos to all of you who don’t have group blogs and kept the posts coming all by yourselves. Thank you, Jane, for getting this ball rolling.

We have completed our 25 posts, but I offer this follow-up post to my October 7th one, in which I talked about our family vacations to visit aunts, uncles, and cousins.

As we became adults, those treasured visits were relegated to memory status, names on Christmas cards, pictures tucked into albums. We saw them occasionally at weddings, mostly at funerals.

Kathy's 90-year-old aunt

But why wait until somebody dies to get together?

That’s the question my cousin Tim and I put to my dad when Tim was in town back in 1983. Dad jumped right on it. And the Cannon Family Reunion was born.

The first was in 1984. We rented a lodge at a local park for a full Saturday, served two meals, and paid for it with donations. Dad figured charging a set fee might deter family members who struggled financially or who had to travel farther. “Donate according to your means,” he said. “If we come up short, we’ll pass the hat at the reunion.” We didn’t have to. We even had a little seed money for the next time.

Dad thought every five years seemed about right. In 1989, we rented a bigger lodge at the same park. We didn’t have to pass the hat, and again there was seed money.

In 1993, we talked about a 1994 reunion. Dad and I discussed what changes to make and which lodge to rent. (They had to be booked a year in advance.) We tossed around possible dates.

Then in May of that year, Dad died. Sudddenly. The turnout at his funeral included those faces from the reunions, and we were grateful he’d seen them all when he was alive.

That July, my sister Reene & I booked a lodge for 1994. We knew Dad would want it to go on.

And go on it has. After the 1999 reunion, we decided not to wait five years. (2004 would see a visit from the 17-year cicadas, and they can be loud and annoying.) We went with 2003, and a new venue closer to Ironton, easier for Dad’s generation to make it to. Several of us made a full weekend of it. Some camped, and we sat around a campfire each evening.

In the month prior to the reunion, we lost two more, Dad’s sister Ruth and her husband. Their kids and grandkids had a difficult time, but a few came to the reunion anyway, because they felt the need to be with family. We embraced them and shared their grief.

Whether it was because we were losing more of them or just because we liked getting together, we decided to hold the reunion every three years. 2006. 2009. And 2012. We still fund it with donations, and have never had to pass the hat.

We’ve added things over the years: color-coded name tags to identify which branch and generation each person belongs to, an “ice-breaker” game to get everyone to mingle, update books to tell what members are doing, drink “coozies” as favors. We take photos of each branch, each generation, and the whole bunch.

Between 2009 and 2012, we lost three more of Dad’s siblings. There is one sister left, and three sisters-in-law. When we assign jobs for the reunion, we put the responsibility for good weather on those who are deceased. And wouldn’t you know it? The miserable heat of 2012 broke for one beautiful weekend in July.

The 2012 reunion hosted 102 family members, from nine states and ranging in age from five weeks to 90 years. More than 60 of them stayed the whole weekend. And there is seed money for 2015.

2012 Cannon Family Reunion

The reunion is a lot of work, but those of us who do the work feel blessed we were born into such a wonderful family. My cousins are closer than ever, and many of the next generation have become good friends. And as I work on each reunion, I feel Dad beside me. And Uncle Bill. And Aunt Rita. And Aunt Ruth. And Uncle Jack…


  1. Whoo-hoo. We did it! Everyone fulfilled their duties in preparing their posts in a timely manner, and I LOVED reading all of them. There seemed to be more soul-searching and quiet reflection in this blogfest than in others we've participated in. I think we are an incredible, diverse group of people. If we all parroted one another, it would be boring.

    Now it's back to coming up with our own ideas and I need more posts.

    1. I love, love, love the talent & diversity of the Swaggers! Thank you all for your beautiful posts & thanks for being such great friends. And thanks to all you other bloggers who posted for this blog challenge. Reading your posts was an incredible experience.

    2. I had such a great time. It really was a fun thing to be a part of. I loved reading all the posts. We are one group of talented Swaggers, if I do say so myself.

  2. What an inspiring story. And your aunt does NOT look 90!

  3. I'm so glad you participated in this challenge - and I hope you'll come back next year! I'll change it a bit to keep it interesting!
    This post touched me. My Mom held weekend reunions every 2 years, just my siblings and our kids, but that got pretty big. We haven't done it since she died. I miss it.
    Jane Ann

    1. Maybe it's time for you to host a reunion again. If you miss it, chances are others do too.
      And I can't wait to see what you come up with for next year's challenge. Thanks again for doing it this year. Loved it!