James Giacomo Lecce, Ph.D., 86, of Raleigh, died Tuesday, May 8, 2012, at his home in Raleigh, N.C. Jim was a creative spirit who celebrated life in a special way.
He was born in Williamsport, Pa., on Jan. 11, 1926, the son of the late Rose Piedi and Joseph Leece. After high school, he enlisted in the Navy and attended officer training at Dartmouth College and Harvard University. He was assigned for duty as a cryptologist at Pearl Harbor in 1943.
He obtained his undergraduate A.B. degree in zoology and chemistry from Dartmouth in 1949. His Master's degree in bacteriology was completed at Penn State in 1951. There he also met his wife, Eileen Kutzer. Jim earned his Ph.D. in medical microbiology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1953.
James Giacomo Lecce
His first career path brought him to NC State University, where he investigated various aspects of porcine husbandry from a genetics, neonatology, immunology and microbiology perspective. He patented the "autosow," a machine used to wean young pigs without a mother. Ultimately, he was recognized as a distinguished William Neal Reynolds Professor of Animal Science and Microbiology based on a productive academic record that included numerous publications, patents, awards and honors. He retired from the university in 1994 after 39 years of service.
Lecce's second vocation turned to carving and sculpturing, where he eventually met his mentor, Al Farrow, a nationally well-regarded sculptor and restorer of tribal art. Lecce's own work has been exhibited in galleries on both coasts. Most recently, the James and Eileen Lecce Ethnic Art Endowment was established at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at NCSU to support the purchase, care and exhibition of a unique collection of tribal art from Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers, Joseph Lecce and Bob Lecce (Williamsport, Pa.). He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Eileen Lecce, of the home, and sisters-in-law, Lorraine Lecce (Williamsport, Pa.), Shirley Lecce (Williamsport, Pa.) and Joan Reif (Bangor, Maine), along with many nieces and nephews.
The family received friends on Thursday, May, 17, 2012, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lecce home, 2729 Cambridge Drive, in Raleigh, N.C.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Gregg Museum of Art and Design at NCSU.
Special thanks are extended to family, close friends, caretakers and Duke hospice for providing loving care during this time.
Arrangements by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, Saint Mary's St., Raleigh, N.C.