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Trailblazing doctor honored posthumously at Westbury homecoming

The late Dr. J. Alfred "Al" Cannon was

The late Dr. J. Alfred "Al" Cannon was honored by Westbury High School as its first "Alumni of Distinction" inductee on Saturday before the annual homecoming parade. From left, superintendent Dr. Mary Lagnato, Kenneth Jones, Village Trustee Beaumont Jefferson, Deputy Mayor Joan Boes, Ann Sweat (Dr. Cannon's sister), Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro, Assemblyman Michael Montesano and Village Trustee Steve Corte. (Oct. 26, 2013) (Credit: Handout)

He was an African-American class president for two years at a mostly-Caucasian 1940s Westbury High School. He later became a psychiatrist and founded various mental health facilities in Los Angeles. He died in 1988 at age 59 of a heart attack while in Zimbabwe trying to help set up small emergency rooms and clinics.

The Westbury school board honored 1946 graduate Dr. J. Alfred "Al" Cannon as their first ever "Alumni of Distinction" on Saturday before their annual homecoming parade. The school board hopes to start an "Alumni of Distinction" hall of fame and induct someone new for every homecoming.

"He was just a man we call 'for all seasons,'" said Irving Eannaccone, PhD, 85, of Huntington, who was Cannon's classmate and best man at Cannon's wedding.


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In 2004, the Westbury school board founded the J. Alfred Cannon Scholarship for $1,000, with his sister, Ann Sweat, running the program. Nominated students write an essay about Cannon to compete for the scholarship.

"He loved Westbury more than anything in the world," said Sweat, 84, who still lives in the village.

The ceremony was in the school lobby, starting with a presentation from the Junior Navy ROTC and the Pledge of Allegiance. Among those who showed up for the ceremony was Albert Handy Jr., 27, who graduated from Westbury High School in 2004.

"I look at his list of accomplishments and I see success," said Handy, the first recipient of the scholarship, who now works in Manhattan for global tax and transactions firm Ernst & Young as a senior project manager.

Throughout the ceremony, Sweat beamed.

"I'm still in shock," Sweat said of her brother being the first honoree. "It's awesome."

Tags: Westbury , homecoming , J. , Alfred , Al , Cannon , towns

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