William Derwood Cann Jr.

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Funeral service for Lt. Col. William Derwood Cann Jr. will be held at noon Thursday, July 15, 2010, at Grace Episcopal Church of Monroe with the Rev. Gregg Riley officiating. Interment will follow at Mulhearn Memorial Park Cemetery under the direction of Mulhearn Funeral Home, Sterlington Road, Monroe. Lt. Col. William Derwood Cann Jr., a World War II commander who went on to become a college professor, mayor and leading manufacturing executive, died Monday, July 12, 2010, at St. Francis Medical Center, Monroe. He was 90 and had resided in Monroe since 1954. Upon his resignation from the regular Army in 1956, he accepted a commission in the Army Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. That same year, he became a vice president of Bancroft Bag Inc., the single largest diversified multiwall bag plant in the United States based in West Monroe. He served with Bancroft until his death as a senior vice president, director and shareholder. William Derwood Cann Jr. was born Sept. 12, 1919, in Corey, Esperance Plantation, near Monroe. He attended Ouachita Parish High School (1933-37), Ouachita Parish Junior College (1937-38) and LSU (1938-42). He joined the Louisiana National Guard at the age of 17, where he attained the rank of corporal, Company G, 156th Infantry. Later at LSU, he was the cadet captain with the Corps of Cadets. In June 1942, he was commissioned a second lieutenant from ROTC, LSU. His military career was meteoric. He quickly became a paratrooper and rose to the rank of unit commander and staff officer while serving in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (1943-45). He served overseas in the European Theater of Operations in World War II with the 101st Airborne Division (1943-46) and later as commander of Company G., 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division (1946), participating in the campaigns of Normandy, Rhineland, Ardennes (Battle of Bastogne, Belgium), Central Europe and the Army of Occupation in Germany and Austria. His postwar assignments advanced him characteristically swiftly, and by 1946, he had become aide de camp to Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin, 82nd Airborne Division. He was an articulate, even zealous supporter of a tough military force modified to mobile warfare. Following his service with Gen. Gavin, he was executive officer, 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion (1949), appointed regular U.S. reArmy (March 1949), Advanced Infantry Course, The Infantry School, Fort Benning, Ga., (1949), instructor, Command and Staff Department, The Armored School, Fort Knox, Ky., (1949-1952), staff officer and field adviser, 28th Turkish Infantry Division, Joint Army Mission for Aid to Turkey, Ankara, Turkey - training officer for Turkish brigades going to Korea (1952-54) and head of Military Department, professor of military science and tactics, Northeast Louisiana University (1954-56). Lt. Col. Cann's decorations for wartime service included the Presidential Unit Citation, Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster, Combat Infantryman's Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, French, Belgium and Netherlands Fourragéres, Germany Occupation Medal, World War II Victory Medal along with other foreign medals. Lt. Col. Cann was a member of the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry (1964-1972), member of the City of Monroe School Board (1968-1972), appointed mayor of Monroe (October 1978–April 1979) and member of the Monroe-West Monroe (Ouachita Parish) Public Trust Financing Authority (1979). He served on the board of directors of the YMCA, president; American Red Cross, chairman; Society for Aid to Crippled Children; March of Dimes, campaign chairman; United Giver's Fund, campaign chairman; Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf; Industrial Development Committee, West Monroe; Chamber of Commerce, West Monroe; Ouachita Valley Council, Boy Scouts of America, president; Chamber of Commerce, president; Little Theater, Chairman Building Fund Campaign, 1987; Public Affairs Research Council, trustee; Junior Division Advisory Board, LSU; Man of the Year Award, Salvation Army, 1978; Ouachita Enterprise Corp., 1991-1996; member, the newspaper editorial board of The News-Star of Monroe, 1992 and Paul Harris Fellow Award, Rotary Club of Monroe, 1993. Lt. Col. Cann was a member of Kappa Alpha Order, Alpha Gamma Chapter; Bayou DeSiard Country Club, board of directors (1968-71, 1979-82, president–1981-82); 101st Airborne Division Association, charter member; Reserve Officer's Association; Retired Officer's Association; Military Order of World Wars and the American Order of French Croix de Guerre. As a member of Grace Episcopal Church of Monroe, Lt. Col. Cann served as a member of the vestry for three terms and as its senior warden from 1987-1988. Lt. Col. Cann is survived by his wife, the former Arabella Bancroft; two daughters, Vada Montgomery and husband Eugene, and Arabella Cann, of Monroe; son, Dr. Thomas Nash and wife Rebecca, of Baton Rouge; three grandchildren, Arabella Moore, Caroline Plaisance and Lauren Nash, of Baton Rouge; two sisters, Sara Cane, of Baton Rouge, and Lodi Kysor, of Virginia; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, William Derwood Cann Sr. and Lodi DeSeay Cann; and two brothers, Frederick Allen Cann and Clinton McGee. Visitation will be from 10:30 a.m. until service Thursday at Kilbourne Hall, Grace Episcopal Church of Monroe. An Army honor guard from Fort Polk will serve as pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers are J.B. Landry, Mark Anderson, Dr. Ralph B. King, Lovell E. Hayden III, James W. Moore Jr., Aylmer E. Montgomery Jr., Dr. M.A. Bodron, Judge Donald E. Walter, Benjamin F. Marshall III and W.L. Carbrey. The family requests memorials be made to the Lt. Col. William Derwood Cann Jr. ROTC Scholarship Fund, c/o The ULM Foundation, 700 University Ave., Monroe, LA 71209 or the Grace Episcopal Church Memorial Fund, 405 Glenmar Ave., Monroe, LA 71201. Online Registry/Condolences: www.mulhearnfuneralhome.com.
Published in TheAdvocate.com on July 14, 2010
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