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Tampa personal trainer John Hannon dies of lung cancer

TAMPA — Legs still wobble, lungs still burn as the sun rises over the bay at Ballast Point Park.

Five days a week, John Hannon taught his Body Bash Bootcamp here, blowing his whistle and chanting his ''Johnisms."

Don't give up! Pain is weakness leaving the body. Hit it hard!

The 43-year-old trainer made a life out of morale boosting, motivating men to bulk up their muscles and spurring women to work for the little black dress. He encouraged corporations to get active and galvanized kids to get off the couch.

Then, in September, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He taught his last class in November. Hannon died Tuesday.

The next morning, 18 of his students pulled into the parking lot for a workout, said Mindy Socher, who started training with him almost four years ago, after the birth of her fifth child.

He would have been proud.

After he fell ill, Hannon found a replacement to keep his boot camp classes going and continued to meet with his students on Fridays for happy hour. Over the years, many had become his friends.

They rallied behind him as he fought cancer, as he had rallied behind them.

They find it hard to reconcile: a man so healthy, gone in four months. He had never smoked. It made little sense.

"There's nobody like him," Socher said.

Hannon worked his students hard. He started a 9:15 a.m. camp for those who wouldn't get up before dawn. He called them ladies of leisure.

There's no magic pill. It takes discipline. What do you want for yourself?

In his last days, even though he didn't have the strength to go for a run, Hannon would lace up his shoes, said his girlfriend, Shanna Halsell.

"He kept trying to go," she said. "He was such a fighter."

He reminded visiting friends to not take their health for granted. Don't complain about that extra five pounds. Be happy with who you are.

Hannon's father died of cancer that started in his liver, and an older brother died of leukemia. His mother is a breast cancer survivor.

In the days of his last week, Hannon realized death was near. At that point, he told Halsell his greatest wish: for the boot camp to go on.

Friends and relatives gathered around his bed and laid hands on him. They encouraged him to let go. They would take care of his two sons, P.J. and Matt.

"Go run boot camp in heaven," Halsell told him.

Everyone will be okay. Go, they told him. Go! Your dad can run along with you and blow the whistle.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at or (813) 226-3431.


John Hannon

Born: June 2, 1967.

Died: Jan. 18, 2011.

Survivors: Mother Barbara Hannon; sons P.J. and Matt; brothers Mark and James Hannon; sister Robin Hannon; and numerous extended family members.

Services: 11 a.m. Saturday at Grace Family Church, 5101 Van Dyke Road in Lutz.

Tampa personal trainer John Hannon dies of lung cancer 01/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 12:13am]
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