Joseph N. Desmon, an insurance executive and civic leader for half a century, died Monday (May 29, 1989) in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital after a brief illness.
Desmon, 77, of Williamsville began his life insurance business on March 6, 1933, the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt closed the banks during the Great Depression. He founded Desmon & Kohnstamm Inc., 360 Delaware Ave., in 1973 and was chairman at the time of his death.
He had been a member of the Advisory Board on Life Insurance to the state superintendent of insurance since 1977, serving in 1984 as chairman. His insurance sales qualified him as a member of the Million Dollar Round Table every year since 1951.
Born in Buffalo, Desmon moved to Ohio and played football at Alliance High School and basketball at Mount Union College in Alliance.
Desmon was named board chairman of Trocaire College in 1979 and was a member of the board at the time of his death.
He was the first recipient in 1971 of the Stanley C. Collins Award of the Buffalo Life Underwriters. In 1981 he received the Spencer L. McCarthy Award from the state Association of Life Underwriters. He served as president of both groups.
He also was a past president of the Estate Analysts Association of Western New York and the Financial Planning Counselors of Western New York.
"He touched so many people," said his partner, Donald M. Kohnstamm. "So many people walked into his office for advice, and he always had time for them. He never said no."
A nephew, attorney Robert P. Fine, recalled Desmon as "a supreme optimist who had a perpetual smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye."
Desmon also was active in the Jewish community. He was a past president of Temple Beth Zion and of the United Jewish Federation.
In 1979, he received the National Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He had been local co-chairman of that organization in 1968 and 1970. In recent years, he had served on its national board.
His first wife, the former Ethel Wagner, died in 1984. She, too, was longtime leader in the Jewish community, and the Desmons received the Human Relations Award of the American Jewish Committee in 1982.
A former chairman of the regional board of the Anti-Defamation League, he received its Torch of Liberty Award in 1977 for his years of public and philanthropic services. In 1966, he received the Emil Rubenstein Award in human relations from the Montefiore Lodge of B'nai B'rith.
A board member of the former United Fund, he was chairman of its Thousand Plus Club in 1970. He was a founder and first president of the Niagara Frontier Vocational Rehabilitation Center. In 1967 he was co-chairman of the Buffalo Philharmonic Maintenance Fund Drive.
A former president of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, Desmon served as general chairman of the United Jewish Fund Campaign and the Israel Bond Campaign. He was co-chairman of the North American steering committee of Interns for Peace, an organization to foster better relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Survivors include his wife, the former Gertrude Cornblum; a son, David H. of Williamsville; a daughter, Jane M. of Azuza, Calif., and two grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at noon Wednesday in the sanctuary of Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave. Burial will be in Forest Lawn.