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Family-owned business receives recognition

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The Lemon family, and its W.D. Lemon & Sons Funeral Home, were recently honored for five decades of service to the local community.

Friday, the Georgia Senate presented several members of the Lemon family with a resolution officially recognizing the business, which was started in 1959, and the contributions it has made to the community over the years.

The resolution was presented to the family in the Senate chambers by state Sens. Gail Buckner (D-Morrow), Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), and Emanuel Jones (D-Ellenwood), and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

Dana Lemon, a co-owner of the business, said she was happy to receive the honor.

"It was pretty exciting," she said. "We got a chance to go into the Senate chambers, which is very unusual."

For Lemon, a board member for the Georgia Department of Transportation, seeing Cagle was a routine occurrence, but she said the meeting with the lieutenant governor was a first for some of her family members.

W.D. Lemon & Sons Funeral home has a location in McDonough, at 300 Griffin Street, and a second location at 2090 Joylake Road in Morrow.

Keeping a business running smoothly is always a challenge, Lemon said.

"It's especially tough for a lot of family businesses, because you're looking at generations," she said.

She credits the family's success to the example her parents, the late Willie D. Lemon and Mary Lemon, set while raising their family, which includes Dana and her six siblings.

"My father was very focused and very committed to what he was doing," Dana Lemon said. "My mom was home raising the children and keeping things normal. She was quietly committed [to the business]. She was not the one out front, in the public eye.

"We were raised to serve," Dana Lemon said. "We always knew that was our responsibility."

Dana Lemon's brother, Sherman, a licensed funeral director and embalmer, said he was also excited about the recognition from lawmakers.

"I was overjoyed," said Sherman Lemon, who has been with the business since the early 1970s. "My dad had a vision I never saw. It shows that hard work does pay off."

The patriarch of the family, Willie D. Lemon, began his career in the mortuary services industry in February 1959, with Lemon & Helton Funeral Home in McDonough.

In 1965, he established the facility on Griffin Street. Shortly after its grand opening, Mary Lemon joined her husband's business, as did Sherman Lemon and his brother, Bobby.

The brothers received extensive training in the industry. Bobby Lemon earned a degree from the Kentucky School of Mortuary Science, and Sherman Lemon graduated from the Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Services.

The Lemons acquired their Clayton County facility in 1976.

In 1994, Dana Lemon left a career in business to earn a degree from the Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Services.

After Willie Lemon's death in 1997, Mary Lemon took over the family business, brining in additional family members, Sandra and Shannon, as funeral directors.

Cagle acknowledged the funeral home's continued presence, and was appreciative of the chance to greet the family.

"It was an honor to meet with the Lemon family at the state Capitol," Cagle said. "They have provided their community so many years of considerate and thoughtful service. I congratulate them on their 50 years of a dedicated and successful business."

Buckner, who has lived in Clayton County since 1971, said her acquaintance with the Lemon family began in the 1980s. It was during that time when Buckner met Sherman Lemon. Later Buckner met with Dana Lemon during Dana's service on the DOT board.

Over the years, said Buckner, the Lemons have filled an important need.

"It's a great family," she said. "It's a great story to see how they have developed this business."