Dr. Lawrence R. Cannaday, 94, of Washington DC, passed away peacefully on Thursday, May 28, 2020. Born on August 18, 1925 to Daisy Mae Arrington Cannaday and Frederick Roosevelt Cannaday, in Roanoke, VA, he was the eldest of three children. His parents and sisters, Juanita Trammel and Clara Buckley, preceded him in death.
At the age of six, Lawrence observed his next-door neighbor and physician, Dr. Lylburn Downing, treat his parents for the flu. Inspired to become a doctor, Lawrence attended Harrison Elementary School and Lucy Addison High School in Roanoke, VA, excelling academically, skipping two grade levels and graduating at age 16. As time approached to attend college, Fred Cannaday made it clear there was no money for college tuition. However, Lawrence had always embodied his father's work ethic and his mother's kind heart. Their home was humble but always tidy, and Lawrence had helped to pay bills by working a paper route, beginning at age ten. Following high school, the US Maritime Commission threw Lawrence's college dreams a life vest through the Emergency Ship Building Program in Maine. He worked as an arc welder in the ship's hold for a year and half, long enough to save money for enrollment into Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. Finishing his first year, in 1944, Lawrence was drafted and spent two years in the United States Navy.
He returned to Fisk in 1946, where he spotted an elegant freshman, Helen Beatrice Dibble, the first day. They stole glances and eventually locked eyes becoming college sweethearts and a popular couple on campus. They simultaneously served as chapter presidents of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Following his third year in college, Lawrence now became known, fondly, as Larry, was accepted into Meharry Medical College in 1949. He married Helen Dibble the following year, 1950. He became a night bartender to pay the bills, saving his money and graduating from medical school in 1954.
Washington DC was the couple's next destination for Larry's internship at Freedmen's Hospital (now Howard University Hospital). He was selected chief resident, internal medicine, in 1957, at the same time as the late Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., was chief resident, surgery. Through moonlighting, house-calls and referrals, the young Dr. Cannaday with his kind eyes, comforting bedside manner and keen medical expertise, he was able to open his own practice in 1958 on Georgia Ave., NW. His observations from childhood formed his interactions with his new patients. In the same year, he became the first black Internal Medicine Specialist (third black physician) granted courtesy (and ultimately full) privileges at the Washington Hospital Center. A decade later, Dr. Cannaday moved his practice to the Washington Hospital Center's Physician's Office Building. His exceptional diagnostic skills and work ethic at the Hospital was legendary: making rounds, complimenting nursing staff and, admitting the highest number of patients in one year. He routinely volunteered in the Diabetic Clinic, always mindful of referring patients to African-American specialists and young doctors in support of their new practices.
Dr. Cannaday was an active member in many social and civic clubs, including the Epsilon Boule, Guardsmen, What Good Are We and the Consorts, where he served as president, in total, for over 20 years. Larry and Helen reared four children in their Washington, D.C. home: Lawrence Robert, Michael Dibble, Helen Anita and Susan Denise. Larry and Helen were married 46 years before she died in 1996.
A few years later, Larry found love again, when he met the lovely and spirited Mary Alexander Brown whom he married in spring 2004. Together they enjoyed traveling, participating in social club activities, attending movies, plays and other cultural events, and most of all, spending time with family and friends.
In April 2012 at age 86, Dr. Cannaday retired after 54 years of practice. He solidified a legacy that would serve patients for years to come. His son, Michael D. Cannaday, M.D., joined the practice in 1993 and continues his father's legacy. "We worked together twenty years and never had an argument," the proud father would often declare. Larry spent his retirement years traveling with Mary, attending club meetings, taking walks, reading the paper, devouring books, visiting friends, enjoying his grandchildren and playing poker with his club members.
Patients remember Dr. Cannaday's thoughtful bedside manner and superb medical care. Colleagues remember his legendary work ethic and support of young African-American physicians. Friends remember his loyalty, generosity and quick wit. Family members remember a man who loved life and loved them, who followed his own life's vision setting the example for them to follow theirs. "I dreamed the life I wanted to live and I lived the life I dreamed." Lawrence R. Cannaday, M.D.
The elder Dr. Cannaday spent his final months, at 94, cared for and surrounded by his family. He leaves to cherish his memory, his loving/beloved wife Mary, four children Lawrence Robert Cannaday, Michael Dibble Cannaday (Tanya Gipson), Helen Cannaday Saulny, all of Washington, DC and Susan Cannaday Pulliam (Onzilo) of Silver Spring, MD; two adult step-children Virginia A. Brown, PhD, of Austin, Texas, and Raymond Alexander Brown (Lisa Weinberg) of New York City; five grandchildren Kristopher Saulny, Lindsey Pulliam, Sydney Pulliam, Kyle Pulliam and Kelsea Saulny; five step-grandchildren Cameron O. Lewis (Lauren Brown, M.D.), Nicole E. Lewis, Aaron O. Lewis, Cruz Alexander Brown and Carlo Tanner Brown; sisters- and brothers -in - law, numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of other relatives and close friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to: Meharry Medical College, Institutional Advancement, 1005 Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd, Nashville, TN 37208. Note Inside or/Memo: In Memory of Dr. Lawrence Cannaday, Class of 1954/Student Emergency Relief Fund.
A memorial service celebrating Dr. Cannaday's life will be held at a later date.
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