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PAGE 2 H Wednesday, July 30, 2014

THE STAR

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Larger than Life...Donald Leonetti By Lisa Glenn

  On July 17, 2014, the life of Donald Joseph Leonetti was cut short in a tragic senseless way and an entire community went into mourning along with his beloved family.  For over 25 years, his company, Leonetti Graphics, has served Fort Bend Schools, a myriad of charitable organizations and countless local businesses by creating designs that shouted the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  Voted “Most Unforgettable,” Dulles Class of ’88, many knew Donald from his “Video Plus” days where he handed out movie critiques along with winks and “thumbs up” nods to parents trying to find appropriate movies for their youngsters.  Donald then became the T-shirt guy who would sit down with the head of student council, the captain of the dance or baseball team, the parent liaison, the golf tournament chair, or the teacher sponsor and listen to their ideas.  Then, to their utter amazement, he would doodle a concept on to a scrap of paper and make their vision come to life!  He was an artistic magician and for almost three decades helped promote worthy causes with his art, whether on a T-shirt, towel or sign! Over 2,000 people walked through the doors of River Pointe Community Church the night of the family visitation.  His children Matthew and Lauren walked the lines of people waiting to pay their respects.  They thanked individuals for coming and administered hugs that would have had their Dad beaming his

pride; while their mom, Jenni, their grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins stood for over three hours embracing the outpouring of a grateful community.  Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen seemed to sum it up when he remarked, “He was a special and giving person and will be sorely missed. There are few people like him that want nothing in return for what they do. He touched many hearts.”  The day of Leonetti's Memorial Celebration, River Pointe was again filled to standing room only with folks dressed in blue jeans and their favorite Leonetti Graphics T-shirt (at the family's request) and as they departed were given a last gift from Donald, an "In memory" T-shirt.   Even the heavens cried for Donald with a light shower of rain as individuals walked into the service to pay tribute to this dynamic individual who as in the TV show Cheers, “knew everybody’s name.”  In the program his wife Jenni wrote,”…We feel the prayers.  Thank you so much for loving our family.  Even though I am broken hearted to lose my best friend, I just have to believe that God’s got this.” Pastor Patrick Kelley laughingly told the gathering that  Donald was his kind of guy “someone who put real hands and feet” on God’s message and encouraged everyone to embrace the way Donald lived and not let guilt or anger take the place of forgiveness and reaching out.  Leonetti’s daughter Lauren (who called her Dad her best friend), his lifelong friend and business associate Paul Price, as

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Donald Leonetti with lifelong sidekick Paul Price in 2000 getting reading to move into the old Missouri City Fire House that Leonetti restructured,  which  became the headquarters for Leonetti Graphics where Donald, his family and the Leonetti Graphics team have  supported thousands of causes while at the same time doing a day's business.

Museum site for Sugar Land Heritage Foundation to be announced Preservation of city’s past on historic grounds

While some may say there’s no sugar in Sugar Land since the Imperial Sugar Factory is no longer in operation, life here continues to be sweet.  That includes the connection to a legendary past that has made way to the city’s phenomenal future.  Sugar Land Heritage Foundation (SLHF) Executive Director well as pals Woody Williams and Dennis Parmer heads the Jonathan Michel, all spoke with historic preservation effort of emotion and humor as they gave the rich and unique history of verbal characterizations of this Sugar Land intended for future larger than life boy next door!  generations. He’s dedicated They tattle-tale’d stories seven years towards that of youthful escapades, end with many preservation complimented his business projects underway to celebrate acumen, paid homage to his the history of the city.  And role model Uncle Damon, as well now, he’s has some exciting as Leonetti’s deep commitment news to share.  In about a to family & friends, valiantly month, he told the Star that fighting their own tears as they an announcement will be knew they represented each made about the selection of person in the room who felt the museum’s permanent exactly yet uniquely the same location, but at the moment way about Donald J. Leonetti-- an he’s not telling.  It should every-day guy who epitomized come as no surprise that it being a “cheerful giver” and will be at the historic sugar whose memory will live forever refinery site in the same young in the many hearts he general area, where the 2008 touched. established, non-profit SLHF which will oversee it, has been temporarily housed.  It has been operating for a while now at the sugar factory’s old Engineering and Personnel Building on Kempner, next to the iconic 1925 Char House.  Parmer shares how the impetus for SLHF was the 2003 closing of the Imperial Sugar refinery, which had operated continuously since the mid 1800s.  “Many organizations began to work together to ensure that the priceless artifacts and the history of the site were preserved,” starting with the City of Sugar Land and he credits “the talented (former) economic development city staff, Joe Esch and Regina Morales,” for much of the leg work under the direction of the city manager, the Imperial

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Sugar Company, Cherokee Investments and the Johnson Development Corporation, all determined to help create the heritage museum for the benefit of the public. “We came as a spin off from city council,” said Parmer, who also formerly served on city council and as mayor pro tem. Operational funding for the SLHF and museum, however, does not come from city general revenue funds, but rather from the city’s hotel occupancy tax.  The money comes from what Parmer refers to as an evergreen contract with the city.  “Every year, provided we meet certain stipulations after we present a budget and accomplishments, we receive $75,000 from the city,” he said.

Future plans for the SLHF call for fundraising to begin in the next 18 months.  For now, it continues to maintain a close relationship with the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation in which Parmer participated for many years.  Both organizations recently partnered on a “Chautauqua Talk,” an oral history, about Sugar Land as a company town presented at the historic Sugar Land Auditorium by Diane Ware of the Fort Bend Museum Association. On that particular history series, we hear that from the early 1900’s to the late 1950’s, Sugar Land residents knew each other and everything that was going on in their company town.  To find out more, Ware’s presentation may be viewed on Sugar Land’s municipal TV station.  Another treat, presented in partnership with the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation, is this weekend’s musical comedy, Little Shop of Horrors, at the Sugar Land Auditorium.  Tickets are on sale for reserved seating and interested persons may call 713-302-5329.  To contact Dennis Parmer about volunteer and other opportunities with the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation, call (281) 494-0261.

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July 30, 2014 - Fort Bend Community Newspaper