David Lester Desha (1887-1966) was a Kamehameha Schools class of 1905 graduate and the younger brother of Helen Desha Beamer, one of the most celebrated Hawaiian composers – who herself graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1900. David Desha’s wife, Julia Smythe Desha, lived from 1893-1979.
Both are buried at Punchbowl Cemetery.
“Kamehameha Schools is truly grateful for the Desha’s aloha and generosity,” said Kamehameha Schools Interim Chief Executive Officer Livingston “Jack” Wong. “Pauahi’s legacy lives on through such life-changing contributions, and these funds will continue to make an impact in the lives of young Hawaiian haumana, just as Mr. and Mrs. Desha did throughout their lives.”
After graduating from Kamehameha, David Desha attended O‘ahu College and later worked for the Kamehameha Finance Company. He was the son of George Langhern Desha (1863-1934) and Isabella Kapuailohia Hale`ala Miller, who was an advocate of hula who descended from notable chiefly lines.
David Desha was also one of seven Kamehameha School for Boys graduates who in 1922 petitioned the treasurer of the Territory of Hawai‘i to charter the Kamehameha Alumni Association. Their objective was to “Unite into closer association the graduates and former students of the Kamehameha School for Boys; to further the interests of Kamehameha Schools; (and) to keep alive the best traditions and influences of Hawaiian life and thought…”
“Aunty and uncle were private people,” said their niece Harriett Desha, a Kamehameha School for Girls graduate in 1964. “Uncle David had a financial business, and Aunty Julia was a social worker. He was always the kind gentleman, always listening, and smiling and laughing. Aunty was more serious, but very kind and giving.
“Uncle David always had a special place in his heart for the Hawaiian community. He sponsored children to attend Kamehameha who otherwise couldn’t have gone there. I really would just like people to know how much they cared about others. They were just ‘behind the scenes’ folks who were more than willing to help out, without needing to have the glory.”
Kamehameha Schools will use the donation to create a newly endowed fund with the Pauahi Foundation in the name of the Desha ‘ohana. The Foundation will manage the endowment, and distribute approximately $20,000 each year to support areas consistent with the wishes of Mr. and Mrs. Desha.
“During their lives, David and Julia Desha made countless contributions to the advancement of the Hawaiian culture and people,” said Keawe Liu, executive director of the Pauahi Foundation. “By creating an endowment in the name of the ‘ohana, their legacy of giving will live on and continue to impact Hawaiian learners in perpetuity.”
Established in 2001 by the trustees of Kamehameha Schools as the fundraising arm of the organization, the Pauahi Foundation’s purpose is to seek community partnerships and create educational opportunities that transform lives within the Hawaiian community. The Desha ‘ohana endowment is just one example of how the Foundation fulfills its mission by partnering with individuals and groups to create lasting impact for the Hawaiian people.