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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Even death won't interrupt his final skydive
His dream: to have his son and friends scatter his ashes as they dive 12,000 feet to earth.
By STEPHANIE HAYES
Published July 14, 2007
TAMPA - The low-tech drawing on a yellow sheet of paper spells out the plan:
The plane will fly at 12,000 feet. Gannon's son and friends will hurl themselves out and drop Michael Gannon's ashes into the air.
The family stick figures in black magic marker, will stand below and cheer. His sister (stick figure lying on the ground), may pass out from the thrill.
It's exactly what he wanted.
He died of a stroke Sunday at age 52. The lifetime thrill seeker was known to skydive in Zephyrhills up to five times in a weekend.
As a toddler, his son, Sean, would lay on the ground and watch his speck-sized dad sail to earth.
Gannon was an electrician living in Town 'N Country. He'd worked on lighting projects at MOSI, St. Joseph's Hospital, Tampa International Airport and the Pier, his family said.
Gannon was popular in high school, had a steady stream of girlfriends. He grew up in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Streets in the town are named for his family, influential in local civics.
Gannon wasn't perfect. Over the years, he was arrested more than a dozen times in Florida on charges including felony drug possession.
In recent years, he turned his focus on work and his family. He was thrilled when Sean married, and overjoyed with the birth of the couple's granddaughter, Giana. Playing with her was the "highlight of his life," said his sister, Karen Gannon MacDonald.
In Tampa, he would tool around on a 9-foot-long motorcycle he built out of old Honda and Harley-Davidson parts.
He was an avid pool player, and taught the art bank shots to Gannon MacDonald, whom he lovingly called "my leetle seester."
He always had a story. If there was an awkward silence at the dinner table, Gannon was sure to fill it with a wacky tale or a joke.
His family chose a song to memorialize his free spirit.
When I die and they lay me to rest, gonna go to the place that's the best. When they lay me down to die, going up to the spirit in the sky.