Activist leads with community involvement

By Kathy Jefcoats

Dana Lemon said she doesn't remember first getting involved in the Henry County community n for her, being active is a way of life.

"I can't remember not being involved," she said. "I was always involved, since junior high school. My parents didn't allow us just to exist."

Lemon, 40, helped to take over the family business almost 10 years ago when her father got sick. Since he died in 1997, she, her six siblings and their mother worked to keep it going. W.D. Lemon and Sons Funeral Home has been a vital McDonough business since 1959 when Willie Lemon started it after his release from the military.

"Those were trying times for blacks," she said. "It was not the norm to be black in the 1960s and own your own business. My father was unique in that he was not doing domestic or factory or sharecropping work."

Willie Lemon also recognized his place in society and the weight his position carried.

"He was always involved in politics, schools, different organizations and activities," she said. "I can't remember when he was not helping someone. He helped integrate schools and get blacks to register to vote. He always encouraged people in the community to get involved."

Dana Lemon was already conscious of the contribution she could make to the world around her when she graduated from Henry County High School in 1982. She went to college in North Carolina and lived in DeKalb and Clayton counties before returning home to Henry in 1995.

"My father had gotten sick and he asked me to go back to school to get my funeral director degree," she said. "I was working at a bank at the time but I did as he asked and came home."

Since her return home, Lemon became active with the Henry County Chamber of Commerce as a member of the board of directors, participated in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk where she raised $2,200 on her own walking more than 60 miles in three days, and got involved with the Flint Judicial Circuit's Haven House.

She also took up tennis.

"I always played basketball and was looking for a women's team in Henry County," she said. "I couldn't find one so I took up tennis to have something to do. It is one of my passions now."

Lemon added a state-level position to her community activities when she was elected to the Georgia Department of Transportation board last year. She represents District 13 as the first woman elected to the DOT board for a five-year term.

"It's more political and there's more money, the audience is bigger," said Lemon, than her county-level involvement, however, she insists she has no desire to run for public office. "There are lots of ways to serve and be very effective. The way I am doing it is through this means. I truly see myself as a public servant."

Lemon accepted the responsibility of helping allocate the state's $2 billion transportation budget because she believes in its importance.

"I came back home because of transportation," said Lemon. "I was commuting three hours a day and realized I was not making enough money to make up for that and life is too short to be on the road three hours a day. I changed my life to avoid traffic."