Not everyone can have 123,000-plus square feet of educational space named for them.
Yet on Oct. 22, Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre and trustees dedicated what was known as Elementary No. 48 in Sienna Plantation as Donald Leonetti Elementary. The school slogan and lion mascot are synonymous with Leonetti, whose spirit was that of a big kid with a lion’s heart.
The fourth and fifth grade choirs sang a beautiful rendition of the song “Tomorrow Needs Us Today” under the large lion mural in the school’s auditorium before Leonetti’s wife Jennifer and his mother RoseAnn took the podium as keynote speakers. As one can imagine, their words shook the cavernous space with both laughter and tears as they spoke of Donald, whose company Leonetti Graphics, has designed and in many situations, donated t-shirts, logos and signs for many FBISD schools for almost two decades.
Jennifer relayed how it was only after his passing that she and her family realized the breadth of Donald’s impact on the community. With a smile she told of how he was an amazing husband, father, brother, uncle and friend. He was also a great businessman. With his partner and best friend Paul Price, he converted an old Missouri City fire station into the corporate headquarters of the company.
She relayed how he was “that guy” who would buy a coat for someone homeless on a cold night, mentor youth and business men alike, and leave “thinking of you” notes along with a caricature on the toilet paper.
Donald’s mother, RoseAnn, talked of how as a single mother bringing up two children, it took “a village” to raise them, crediting her parents, brother Damon Leonetti and his wife Candy with the tremendous influence they had on Donald’s giving nature. She spoke of how Donald kept a promise to his grandfather and at age 19 legally changed his name to Leonetti. In an emotion filled voice, his mother also spoke of the fact that two years after his tragic passing, she wasn’t hearing his name as often and how sad that had made her.
“Now,” she said, “ he will always be remembered.”
Principal Joy Schwinger’s address to the audience echoed the traits the Leonettis had spoken of in Donald in her goals for her teachers and students: family first, a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, service to others and to have fun while achieving those.
Schwinger said she did not know Donald personally yet after the naming of the school was announced whether it be while she was interviewing teachers or in line at a store, people would say to her “I knew Donald” and then go on to share their Donald story. There was no doubt at the conclusion of the dedication that Donald Leonetti Elementary will truly be “A great place to be a kid!”