By KATIE EUBANKS
Barry and Angelyn Cannada
‘It’s all been a gift’
Every Christmas, Jacksonian Barry Cannada and his brother Ric gather their families, hold hands and recite Psalm 139 together.
They do this not to be super spiritual, but because of whom that psalm brings to mind.
“Dave was the best of us,” Barry says, sitting with his wife, Angelyn, in their home in Jackson’s Belhaven neighborhood.
Dave was the second of the Cannada boys. Their father, Robert, helped establish two significant entities in Mississippi: the Butler Snow law firm and Reformed Theological Seminary, both in the Jackson area.
Ric later became chancellor at RTS and now is planting a seminary near Jakarta, Indonesia.
Dave took on his father’s other passion.
“Dave was phenomenal,” Barry says. “It was clear he was going to be a lawyer.”
As a sophomore at the University of Mississippi, Dave was diagnosed with leukemia. This was in the early days of chemotherapy, and he contracted pneumonia during treatment. He died at 19 years old.
“We all got to spend individual time with him at the hospital before he died,” Barry recalls. Dave had a Bible verse for each of them — for Barry it was Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
And on a February night in 1970, at Dave’s request, his father read Psalm 139 aloud in the hospital room. Now the Cannadas hear that psalm — one offering “complete coverage” from the Lord, Barry notes — every year at Christmas.
That’s just one small way Dave impacted his little brother’s life. “Dave’s death changed everything.”
‘You name the date!’
Barry and Angelyn sit side by side in a room they added on to the house a couple years ago. He tells most of their story, but pauses every once in a while to ask her, “Did I get that right?”
When he does fudge a fact, she corrects him. Otherwise she’s happy to let him do most of the talking.
After Dave died, “there was nobody to take the legal spot,” Barry says, referencing his father’s two career paths. Dave and Ric had followed those paths not out of obligation, but sincere love for their father.
“Angelyn’s right,” Barry says, hearing his wife’s unspoken words: “I went to law school in large part because I thought it would please Dad. My father was deeply theological, brilliant. But he was a tremendous father. He’s the one who taught me how to ride a bike, how to fish, how to hunt.”
Barry attended Ole Miss, majored in accounting, and aimed to be a business attorney. In his senior year, he met a freshman from Ruston, Louisiana, named Angelyn Atkins.
“I saw her at the fraternity house I was in. She had a date with a good friend of mine. It took me awhile to shame her into going out with me.”
Barry turns to Angelyn and asks, “Can I tell her?”
“Go ahead,” Angelyn says, and Barry tells the story:
“The freshman women in the sororities would take the liberal arts courses and then go back to Sorority Row for lunch,” Barry says. “I was standing on the steps of Peabody Hall, in the final semester of my senior year, waiting for her.
“I yelled, ‘Angelyn Atkins! It’s Barry Cannada! You name the date: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday … I’ll be here every day until you go out with me!’”
“I ran,” Angelyn says.
By that point, Barry had phoned her several times to ask her out, and she’d turned him down — because she always had dates! “Back then, you had dates,” she says.
Eventually, a spot opened up on her calendar.
There’s a lot about the Ole Miss experience that Barry treasures, but “by far the best thing I got was meeting her,” he says.
Also, “she was cute. Here.”
He takes his phone out of his pocket and, after pleading with Angelyn for permission, reveals his lock screen: a gorgeous photo of her as a college student, with her same chestnut brown hair.
Starting a life together
Angelyn and Barry married after graduation
The couple soon moved back to Jackson, where Barry joined Butler Snow. Far from the international juggernaut it is today, the firm only boasted a couple dozen lawyers, though “they always had outstanding talent,” Barry says.
“We had to do a little bit of everything — which was good for me.”
He litigated some business cases, and eventually the firm developed an entire business department, where he has focused his time since.
“Butler Snow has been fun. I got to be part of building something … and that’s very meaningful. I’m comfortable that I’m where God meant me to be.”
He’s also grateful to have been part of the creation of Stribling Equipment and Empire Trucks in the early ’80s, and to be president of the company that owns them.
“I have been close to the ownership for my whole life. I’m proud to be a small part of those successful Mississippi businesses.”
He and Angelyn moved into their current home in 1983, the same year their oldest daughter was born. Angelyn stayed home as their family grew. Barry’s father was an elder a First Presbyterian, located just a few blocks west of their house, and they settled in at the church. The kids attended First Presbyterian Day School.
“The greatest thing about this house, for years, was that I got to walk my kids to school,” Barry says. “My daughters got embarrassed. By the time they hit fifth or sixth grade, their attitude was, ‘You’re not cool, Dad.’ My son, we’d be high-fiving the security guard.”
Over the years, Barry and Angelyn have had lots of work done on the house, from enclosing a porch to adding “grandchild drawers” to the kitchen cabinets. These drawers contain ice cream sandwiches and, in the summer, popsicles.
“We thought about downsizing to a smaller home a few years ago, but the kids threatened a mutiny,” Barry says.
Joining the Cru
In addition to his work at Butler Snow, Barry is chairman of the board of Cru, formerly known as Crusade, or Campus Crusade for Christ. How he got to that position, he’ll say, is only by the grace of God.
Though known primarily as a college ministry in America, Cru is “a holding company for many different ministries” all over the world, Barry says.
“I’m sort of a novelty that I’m from Mississippi. But I always talk about Ole Miss and Oxford like it’s the center of the universe. They get tired of it,” he says.
“‘The Jesus Film’ (which has been seen in every country on earth and translated into hundreds of languages) is us. Athletes in Action out of Ohio is under us. That’s in 65 countries itself.”
Barry and Angelyn were both involved in the on-campus Crusade group in college. Angelyn also attended a summer program put on by the organization at Colorado State University. The program was designed to train Crusade staff — “and a few people who weren’t going on staff but could take courses,” Angelyn says. She was one of the latter, taking a full load of Bible courses.
Barry’s connection to Cru started sooner, but not because of any deliberate decision he made.
“It goes back to my family, my father. Again, most of my life has been a gift,” Barry says. “I met Bill Bright, the founder of Crusade, as a child at my father’s house in Jackson in the early ’60s.”
Bill Bright and Robert Cannada were roughly the same age, and Robert was a sort of mentor to Bill at one point. Also, in the 1960s, Ric Cannada started a Crusade chapter as a student at Vanderbilt University.
Later, thanks to the family connection, Barry wound up doing some legal work for a couple of Cru board members. Then they asked him to join the board himself in the early ’90s.
“They wanted a young person and a business lawyer on the board, but mainly, I was Bob Cannada’s son.”
Barry joined the board in 1992 as its youngest member. He now is both chairman of the board and its longest-serving member.
“Cru is a gift for me because it allows me to use my gifts and talents in a challenging environment.”
Seeing the world
Part of what makes Cru challenging, and fun, is the fact that it has somewhere around 20,000 full-time staff — in 192 countries.
Every other year, Cru will hold a board meeting in a far-flung place where the organization has boots on the ground, from Central America to Estonia.
Those gatherings include meetings for couples, Angelyn said. “You get to see what a big world we live in and how God’s involved all over the world — not just in Mississippi or even in the United States.”
She also enjoys extending she and Barry’s Cru-related travels into vacations. Then she gets to use some of her own gifts and talents.
“Well, he’s very disorganized,” she says, laughing. “I’m kind of the organizer of the travel. Well, I am the organizer of the travel.”
“And everything else,” Barry points out.
Whether it’s a Cru trip or just for fun, she plans and executes it all perfectly, Barry says. He gives an example:
“I took off work for three months. We were in our 50s. We spent two months in Africa, then flew to Australia, spent a few days in Sydney, then flew to New Zealand, spent some time there, and flew home. So we literally went around the world. And we never stayed in the same place more than three nights.”
Angelyn planned it all. She even packed all the different clothes Barry would need — khakis for African photo safaris, formalwear for the Sydney Opera House. At one point in Africa, they boarded a tiny aircraft with a 20-pound luggage limit per person. Angelyn was prepared. She and Barry would arrive at a new location, and the right clothes and luggage would appear.
“He never even knew what country we were in, or where we were going,” she says.
And he loved it: “I’d just wake up and say, ‘What’s today’s adventure, babe?’”
If you think Angelyn ought to be a travel agent, Barry quickly points out that she used to help travel agents as an independent contractor.
He’ll also search through some of the many hardback coffee-table books in their home — printed for family enjoyment — to find a particular photo of Angelyn’s to show off. The photo books are filled with big cats, mountain ranges and sunsets from the Cannadas’ many trips, shot on her Canon EOS 70D.
Though she’s loved every destination, Africa is her favorite. Botswana, specifically.
“The people, the animals, the lodges, the photography, the vistas — the African sunsets are the best,” she says.
Also, “so many of the people are Christians. I think people think you go to Africa and you’re going to have weird food and stay at a scary place.” But she and Barry have experienced “five-star” food, lodging and, most importantly, people in Africa.
So, what’s in Botswana?
“The Okavango Delta in Botswana — it’s part of the Kalahari Desert. You can see it from space. It looks like fingers,” she says, holding out her hand and spreading her fingers to imitate the outflow of a river delta.
“Instead of flowing into the ocean, the water comes into the desert. But it all depends on the rain. … Chief’s Island, in the Okavango Delta, is full of predators. I like all the predators.” She smiles.
More than one of the photo books features a leopard (her favorite) or cheetah on the front cover. Some of those shots appear to have been taken, shall we say, too close for comfort.
“They say as long as you’re in the vehicle, and you don’t make any sudden movements and you don’t stand up, the animal looks at the vehicle and you as one big thing, and they’ll leave you alone,” Angelyn says.
But there are exceptions. Like when an elephant in musth (basically in heat) charges — or when a cheetah jumps onto the roof of your vehicle to use it as a vantage point. (After taking a look around, the cheetah decided to take a nap on the roof. Barry gingerly poked its paw with a knife, despite Angelyn’s protests, and the world’s fastest land mammal hopped down and loped away.)
God’s Word and God’s people
Angelyn doesn’t relish a spotlight, and she isn’t naturally chatty like Barry. At one point when he’s answered a question with a particularly long tangent, he asks this interviewer, “Is that enough?” and Angelyn says, “Yes! That is more than enough!”
So, when they’re asked to name their favorite Bible verses, Angelyn says, “I like, ‘Be still and know that I am God,’” and laughs at her husband, who has a hard time with the first part of that command.
“You can tell that verse goes with her!” he says.
“Be quiet and know. Can I change it to that?” she says, still laughing.
Barry can’t get away from the verse Dave gave him, Romans 8:28 — or the passage their father read aloud at the hospital, Psalm 139. Barry paraphrases some of his favorite parts: “Before there’s a word on my tongue, You know it. Wherever I go, You’re there.
“I’m not as good as Dave, by a long shot. When he got to verses 23 and 24 (‘Search me, O God, and know my heart …’), you heard it and you knew he meant it. I don’t know if I can be that sincere.”
In addition to Dave, others have had a huge impact on Barry and Angelyn’s lives — from friends and family to a group of girlfriends at a Christian camp in Alabama who convinced Angelyn to attend Ole Miss. Barry admits he has some talent and works hard, but “to begin with, because of some incredible people … I had a depth of spirituality and a depth of just good folks around me.
“As far as I’m concerned, I was born into the best family possible. It’s only surpassed by the family God gave me to raise.
“I had a phenomenal dad and a phenomenal mother,” Barry says. “I got a gift in Angelyn. We have three incredible kids, all very different … One of our grandsons was born so premature he weighed less than two pounds, but he came through.”
“We’ve got great friends,” Angelyn adds.
She and Barry know they’ve done nothing to deserve all that.
“It’s all been a gift,” he says. “Our life has been a gift.”