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DeSana hailed as giver
Retiree used time, money for local causes
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Forsyth County News

James A. DeSana

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 19 at First Baptist Church on Sawnee Drive in Cumming.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the DeSana Education Fund at 320 Dahlonega St., Suite 100, Cumming, GA 30040.

Byars Funeral Home and Cremation Service is in charge of arrangements.

A man who dedicated his retirement years to giving to the Forsyth County community has passed away, but the legacy he built with his wife will live on.

James A. DeSana, 83, died early Friday morning while in hospice care.

Since 1998 he and his late wife of 38 years, Jeanne, awarded 28 scholarships worth $5,000 each to Forsyth County high school students through the DeSana Educational Fund.

DeSana told the Forsyth County News in June that he hoped the benefits of the scholarships would spread beyond the recipients.

"What you hope is we affected directly, 28 students (so far)," he said. "Indirectly, we're hoping those will turn around and do the same thing. It grows. It's like a pyramid. It just builds."

The DeSanas started the foundation with their savings and money earned from their post-retirement work: Jim's art and music and Jeanne's lecturing and teaching.

Jeanne DeSana died in July following a long illness. She was 87.

Roger Crow, who serves on the foundation's board of directors, said the DeSanas were charter members of the

Sawnee Association of the Arts, now the Sawnee Artists Association, which began in 1980.

"He was very instrumental in the effort to build the Sawnee Center and helped raise funds for that," Crow said.

The association presented DeSana in August with a proclamation declaring Aug. 25 as the official James A. and Jeanne B. DeSana Day.

DeSana was a retired General Motors engineer and served in the Navy, Crow said. His wife was a chromosome researcher and professor at Emory University and the state's first geneticist.  

The DeSanas passed on their giving spirit to their daughter, Susan Beatty, the associate dean of natural sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has established a graduate research scholarship in her parents' honor.

Dennis Stockton, Forsyth County News group publisher, said DeSana was "one of the kindest, most giving men I ever met."

"I had the privilege of working with Jim on several committees in the community, in particular the United Way Allocations Committee," Stockton said. "He always gave freely of himself to whatever it was that needed doing. His wisdom and generosity definitely will be missed in Forsyth County."

Crow said the DeSanas retired shortly after they moved to Forsyth County in 1972.

"Then they did work lecturing in the schools, conducting science projects, judging competitions and they were just key people in the community and education even though they didn't have a kid in the school system," Crow said.

He said the scholarships will continue.

The DeSanas also both served on local school advisory boards and were longtime members of the Forsyth-Cumming Optimist Club, Crow said.

DeSana was a Renaissance man as well.

Crow said one of his favorite avenues of artistic expression was creating three-dimensional renderings of buildings. In the 1980s DeSana was commissioned by the University of Georgia to create three pieces that were given to some of the school's major contributors.

"He was an extremely intelligent and bright guy," Crow said.

He also was known to many as a music man. He never took a piano lesson, but had a repertoire of nearly 9,000 pieces of music, said Crow, adding that DeSana often played for civic groups and at community functions.

Crow said DeSana had "a real good sense of humor and enjoyed playing pranks."

"He and Jeanne together set an example of love of community and caring that we ought to all follow," Crow said.