Obituary: Constance “Connie” Canney, 93

Constance (“Connie”) Canney passed away peacefully at home in Lyman, Maine on August 20, 2022, surrounded by her loving family. Connie recently celebrated her 93rd birthday with family and friends.

Constance June March was born on June 11, 1929, in Rochester, New Hampshire, to Clifton March and Ida Junkins. Connie attended schools in East Rochester and Rochester, NH where she graduated Spaulding High School in 1947. Connie was accepted for a working scholarship by Kansas City Art Institute & School of Design in Kansas City, MO, and she moved to Kansas City to attend KCAI, graduating in 1951.

Connie returned to New Hampshire and in 1952 she married the love of her life, Robert Benjamin Canney of West Lebanon, Maine. Two sons, Michael and Brett, and a daughter, Taryn, were born between 1952 and 1955. Connie and Bob lived in New Hampshire and Connecticut, working at various jobs, until moving to Florida in 1959.

Bob enrolled in the University of Florida at Gainesville in 1960, and Connie worked in the office of UF Student Publications from 1960-1964, which at the time produced the Florida Alligator newspaper. She and Bob were active in the civil rights movement, and in 1963 Bob was among UF students arrested in Ocala for a “sit-in” protest at a segregated lunch counter.

In 1964, Connie and Bob moved to Cocoa, where Bob taught English Literature at Brevard Junior College and Connie taught classes in watercolor, oil painting, and drawing for the Central Brevard Art Association in Cocoa and the Titusville Art League in Titusville. Connie’s works were exhibited by the Salty Dog Gallery in Cocoa Beach and the Shaggy Dog Gallery in Winter Park.

Bob helped organize a teachers’ union and supported a statewide teachers’ strike in 1968. He and several other professors were fired by BJC for union and antiwar activities, and Connie went to jail for protesting the death of academic freedom at BJC.

Connie and Bob moved back to Gainesville, where Bob worked on his doctorate and taught classes at UF. The Canneys remained outspoken critics of the U.S. war in SE Asia and the increasing political repression at home. In 1970, Bob Canney helped to organize the first statewide protest in Florida against the Vietnam war.

On April 18, a peaceful antiwar march and rally was held in St. Petersburg, attended by hundreds from across the state. The gathering was violently attacked by dozens of police. Many were beaten and 14 were arrested, including Bob, who was charged with profanity (for saying “Let’s bring the goddam war home”). That charge was later dropped, but he was convicted of felony resisting arrest and sentenced to 2 years in prison, in a trial where no defense witnesses were allowed.

Bob’s conviction was appealed, but he was fired from his teaching job at UF and the Canneys were exiled to Maine, where Connie and her family worked to rebuild their lives, opening a small shop dealing in antiques and antiquarian books.

In 1975, when they returned to Florida for a hearing before the same judge and prosecutor, Bob was taken into custody and sent to state prison. Connie organized a “Free Bob Canney” campaign, and after a few months Bob was released from prison and they were able to return home to Maine.

Connie and Bob traveled to Nicaragua and Cuba together, but Bob Canney passed suddenly in 1988. After losing her husband, Connie moved to Florida and remained politically active for many years in St. Petersburg and Alachua. She sojourned to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, and Venezuela, making many friends along the way. At 85, Connie returned to Maine to live with her daughter Taryn in 2014.

Connie Canney was an incredibly talented artist and photographer. She was fiercely loyal to her family and her friends and firmly dedicated to peace, human rights, and social justice causes. Connie kept an optimistic outlook, no matter how difficult the situation or the challenge. She loved art, poetry, music, and dancing, and most of all she loved people. Connie was always authentic, and her life and her spirit will continue to be an example of courage, compassion, commitment, and integrity. She will be sorely missed by all who knew her.

Connie is survived by her sisters Marian Cornish of Florida; Jo Parrott of Washington; her children Michael, Brett, and Taryn, all residents of Maine; grandchildren Justin Canney, Emily Coyne, Mary Jane Bird, and Ashleigh Fife of Maine, and Sara Bachelder of Florida; and seven great-grandchildren. Connie was preceded in death by her husband Robert, her brother Clifton (“Sonny”) March, and her granddaughter Linsey Winslow.

A memorial celebration and exhibit of Connie’s art will be held September 24 in Alfred, Maine. A memorial will be held in Gainesville next winter, date & location TBA. For more info, call 207.206.9237.

Painting: Self portrait – pastel by C. Canney 1990

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