Dana Lemon enjoys the finer things in life. She never passes up an opportunity to stay at a five-star hotel or a fishing trip on calm, open waters. She grew up as the youngest of seven siblings in a family that emphasized the importance of community involvement. This resonated with her and led her to serve on many boards throughout her life. Through natural progression of board involvement and a little encouragement, Lemon ran for the State Transportation Board in 2003, a seat she won making her the first female to serve on the board. She has represented the 13th Congressional District ever since.
CHURCH AND FAMILY
Growing up in McDonough in the 1960s and 1970s, the city looked a little different, but life was wonderful.
McDonough was very small back then – nothing like it is today. We could ride our bicycles and walk pretty much anywhere because there was nobody in that little small town. I grew up in a traditional family in the South. We went to church every Sunday and my mom would host everyone for Sunday dinner. My family is frighteningly close and although my parents are no longer with us, we still have Sunday dinners.
LEAP OF FAITH
After 10 years in the banking industry, Lemon made a career change that took faith and courage.
It was a combination of my decision and not my decision. When God has something else for you to do, he makes things uncomfortable for you where you are. I loved my job. I was young, making money moves as people say, I had opportunities and was moving up, and then the company got bought and bought again and the culture changed tremendously and it was not for the better. Then my dad told me he needed me to come run the funeral home – the family business. I knew I was getting ready to make some changes in my career, but running a funeral home was not on my list. I prayed on it. I decided to do it. I took a month off and started mortuary school in September 1994.
HELPING FAMILIES THROUGH TRAGEDY
All losses are tragic, and helping a family make it through one of the hardest things in life is challenging yet rewarding.
When a family comes into the funeral home so distraught they can’t figure out the next thing they should be doing and you are able to calm them down, earn their trust, make them feel like ‘she’s going to take care of me and we’re going to be okay,’ and you’re actually able to help them through that process so they can move on to the next stage of grief, that is the most fulfilling part for me.
THE FOUNDATION OF EVERYTHING
When I was growing up I was crazy about reading. My mom caught me a couple of times holding my book in between the pages of my Bible in church. I read mostly fiction. Anything from suspenseful detective books to love stories. Lately I have gotten really into audio books. I just finished Michelle Obama’s
Becoming and I cried. I loved the Obamas before the book, but I love them more after. I definitely encourage people to read it.
Lemon wants students in her community to know that there are resources available to help them have unique experiences. The Dana L. Lemon Foundation strives to make a difference.
The intention of the scholarship is to encourage students to do something that is non-traditional like going to a camp where they teach Mandarin or learning how to fence. We want to provide these students and their parents with money to expand their horizons beyond traditional experiences. I want the kids in Henry and Clayton counties to stop seeing this as their starting point and stopping point in life. Before the year is out we will be making a donation to the Henry County High School Lacrosse team and the Rifle Club.
A LESSON IN HINDSIGHT
There are a few things Lemon wishes her younger self had known.
I wish I had known that financial decisions have consequences – buying is better than renting and financing is not always a good thing. I wish I had known that when you have an opportunity to experience something new and different, take it. I wish I had known that allowing new things, new experiences and new people into my life is a good thing.
CASTING A LINE
We grew up fishing – my mom, her sisters, her mom – so in the summertime three or four times a week we’d be on a creek, a lake, a pond. We’d get up before the sunrise, get the car packed, lunches packed and we’d be out there all day until about 5 o’clock when it was time to come home. I love to fish – something about the water, the stillness, the calm. When we go out of town for a board meeting, everyone else goes golfing, I go fishing.
Fear often prevents us from trying new things. I have a deadly fear of snakes.
I will kill myself to get away from a snake that can’t even kill me. I went to a college in North Carolina that has a lake campus that we could go and enjoy. I would never ever go out into the water or learn how to water ski because I heard that once or twice a year someone would go out water skiing and they would fall down into a pit of snakes and get eaten up. I knew that wasn’t true, but I still didn’t do it until I was two or three years out of college. And I love water!
FOODIE FOR LIFE
Experiencing foods from different cultures, states, even cities is one of the highlights of traveling for Lemon.
I will travel to get food. When I’m traveling somewhere, I will literally look up Diners, Drive In’s, and Dives to see if there is a dive in the city where I am going that it says I need to check out.