Community involvement discussions in the Rapid City area invariably come around to the late Jack and Ruth Cannon. Even now, the couple are remembered as people who embodied community involvement spanning the more than 50 years they spent in South Dakota. And their work isn’t yet done.
In 2014, the South Dakota Community Foundation announced the establishment of the Jack and Ruth Cannon Endowment Fund, which benefits six nonprofit organizations in South Dakota and one in the Cannon’s hometown of Providence, Rhode Island.
The Cannons settled in Rapid City in 1953, when Jack took a job as a writer at the Rapid City Journal and Ruth took a position at what eventually became Wells Fargo Bank. The two continued working at those institutions until retirement in the 1980s. Jack was known for his sharp wit and confident presence, and Ruth for her artistic leanings. Correspondingly, Jack emceed many events in western South Dakota over the years, and Ruth was a founding member and contributing artist at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City.
Both Cannons were impressively civically engaged. For many years they volunteered at numerous community events, like the Knights of Columbus Thanksgiving Meal. They were also active members of many community organizations.
“One of the things I noticed right away about Jack was his devotion to the community,” remarks Rapid City Journal Reporter Jim Holland, who worked with Jack shortly before his retirement. “He just was involved—he had his finger on the pulse of the town in so many ways because of his civic involvement."
Jack sat on a dizzying number of boards over the years in Rapid City, including those of the West River Mental Health Center (now Behavioral Management Systems), the South Dakota Department of Health – Health Resource Development Council, and the Black Hills Long Range Development Council, among many others. He was also integral to the merger of Saint John’s McNamara Hospital and Bennett-Clarkson Hospital, forming Rapid City Regional Hospitals.
In South Dakota, the endowment fund the Cannon's started supports Western South Dakota Catholic Foundation, Children’s Home Society, Storybook Island, Black Hills Works Foundation, Black Hills Playhouse Foundation, and the Behavior Management Systems Endowment. In Rhode Island, it supports the LaSalle Academy Catholic Preparatory School.