By Erich Wagner (Photo/Nina Tisara)
When T.J. Fannon felt better last month, the first time since being diagnosed with brain cancer in the summer, there was only one thing to do: Go back to work.
“He actually went back to work [at T.J. Fannon & Sons] for a few days in October,” said nephew and former City Councilor Frank Fannon. “He felt better, so he was down there answering the phone. His whole joy in life was work and getting up and taking care of his customers.”
The Alexandria native and business owner died November 19 at his home along Trinity Drive at the age of 83.
T.J. Fannon grew up in the Port City. He went to St. John’s High School in Washington before attending the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. But he returned to his hometown to work at the family business — the third-oldest family-owned company in Virginia — after graduating in 1952.
According to a family story, T.J. Fannon took it upon himself in his early years on the job to try selling home air-conditioning when it came out on the market.
“He went to homes in Old Town and said, ‘Hey, what we’ll do is put this machine in the basement, cut holes in your walls and blow cold air through the house,’” Frank Fannon said. “They’d start yelling, ‘We’re going to call your father and say that his son is trying to sell us a scam. He’s down here making up stories about machines making cold air!’”
Misunderstandings like that aside, T.J. Fannon was compassionate in his business practices, his nephew said.
“He never turned down a customer,” Frank Fannon said. “If people couldn’t pay their oil bill or their [air-conditioning] bill, he wasn’t going to let them go without heat or [air-conditioning]. He would say, ‘Just pay me back when you can.’”
Outside of his business, T.J. Fannon was known for his charitable endeavors. A 50-year member of the Alexandria Rotary Club, he was a longtime sponsor of the Alexandria Boys and Girls Club and local hospitals.
Frank Fannon said his uncle had a profound impact on his life.
“He was really the role model that I followed growing up, along with my father,” he said. “[What] was taught to him through the generations was that you take care of your family, your community and your customers.”
T.J. Fannon is survived by his four children and 16 grandchildren. His family held a visitation at Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home on Friday, with a funeral mass Saturday morning at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Old Town.
Contributions in his memory can be made to the Rotary Foundation, Senior Services of Alexandria and Inova Alexandria Hospital.