John J. Desmond

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A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday, March 31, 2008, at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, 445 Marquette Ave., for longtime resident John Jacob Desmond, age 85, who died on Thursday evening, March 27, at Lane Regional Medical Center, Zachary. Born in Denver in 1922, John lived most of his life in Hammond and Baton Rouge. A graduate of Jesuit High School in New Orleans, he received a bachelor's degree in architecture from Tulane University and a master of architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied under the A.I.A. gold medal winners W.W. Wurster and Alvar Aalto, of Finland. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy as a second lieutenant aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Madison, escorting convoys across the Atlantic and also seeing action in the Mediterranean at the Battle of Anzio. After the war, upon finishing his education, he worked for Skidmore Owings & Merrill, in New York City; architect A. Hays Town in Baton Rouge; and for the Tennessee Valley Authority in Knoxville. In 1953, John returned to Hammond to open the first architectural practice in the Florida Parishes. The firm served as school board architect in Tangipahoa Parish for approximately 20 years. Beginning in the early 1970s, he worked exclusively from Baton Rouge, shaping much of the public domain of the city. His architectural firm evolved over the years and included many of the region's architects at various times. His significant local buildings of interest include the LSU Union, the Louisiana State Library, the Baton Rouge Centroplex, the Pennington Bio-Medical Research Center, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, the Louisiana State Archives, renovations and additions to St. Joseph's Cathedral, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church and the Catholic Life Center. Many of his designs throughout the state have won national, regional and state A.I.A. awards. As a member of the Urban Design Committee of the American Institute of Architects, he served on more than 14 R/UDAT-Regional/Urban Design Assistance Teams nationwide. John Desmond's drawings and photographs have been featured in numerous national and international magazines and have been exhibited in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Washington D.C. and New York City. His drawings are also featured in his book, "Louisiana's Antebellum Architecture," published by Claitor's in 1970. He taught in the Tulane, LSU and Southern University schools of architecture. Throughout his professional career, he received many honors and awards, including Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects for Significant Contribution to Design, Special Award for Preservation from the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Outstanding Alumnus of the Tulane University School of Architecture, the Arts Council of Baton Rouge's Mayor-President's Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Louisiana A.I.A. Gold Award Lifetime Achievement Award. The professional papers and drawings developed by his firm over the years are deposited in the archives at the Hill Memorial Library of LSU. He was retired at the time of his death. He was preceded in death by his parents, Timothy J. Desmond and Rose Isabelle Dvorak Desmond; his sister, Eileen Desmond Kahn, who was of Wilmington, Del.; and his first wife and mother of his children, Ella Blanche Russell Desmond, who was of Magnolia, Miss. He is survived by his wife, Nell H. Lentz-Desmond; his brother, Gerald Desmond, of Fremont, Calif.; his children, John Michael Desmond, of Baton Rouge, James Russell Desmond, of New Orleans, and Margaret Desmond Dahm, of Asheville, N.C.; and four grandchildren, Evan and Lewis Dahm, and Ella and Jacob Desmond. His in-laws and stepchildren are also greatly aggrieved at his loss and include two stepdaughters and two stepsons, Sharon Elizabeth Lentz Moran and Jan Susan Lentz, both of Baton Rouge, and Paul Stephen Lentz, of Walker, and David Merrill Lentz, of Denham Springs; and five stepgrandchildren, Paul Stephen Lentz Jr., Nikki Lentz-Hunt, Brandi Nicole Lentz-Blount, Sarah Michelle Lentz and Michael Scott McDaniel. Visitation at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East, 11000 Florida Blvd., on Sunday, March 30, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with recitation of the rosary at 7 p.m. Interment will follow the funeral Mass, at Resthaven Gardens of Memory, Old Jefferson Highway. Memorial contributions in Mr. Desmond's name may be made to Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church.
Published in TheAdvocate.com from Mar. 29 to Mar. 30, 2008
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