Jo-Ann LaMonica sits inside the chapel of St. Mary-s School in Oneonta on Tuesday. (Star photo by Brit Worgan)

When deciding who should receive the Distinguished Partner in Education award from Saint Mary's School this year, "there was only one logical choice," an event organizer said.

Jo-Ann LaMonica, 62, will receive the recognition at a fundraising banquet at 6:30 p.m. April 25 at the school on state Route 7. Tickets are on sale starting Monday at the school and several other locations.

"Jo-Ann was the only person for the award," said Tifanne Wells, the school's marketing director and a parent who is helping to organize the event. Since this is the first time it's being given, "There was no other choice," she said.

The honor is intended to show appreciation for those who have supported the school, which is run by Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Church.

"We had other great candidates, but it was only appropriate we chose her for the first award," Wells said.

Retired pastor Rev. Paul Roman had a dream of building a new school away from downtown, where it was located until 2001, she said.

"Jo-Ann was instrumental in helping making that a reality," Wells said.

Not only did she and her husband, Frank "Diz" LaMonica, donate the funds for the school's chapel, but "her gifts of time, passion and beliefs will help the school continue to succeed," Wells said.

LaMonica said it is an honor to receive the recognition. But that is not why she has been volunteering to assist the school over the years.

"I get a delight out of seeing the smiles on the children's faces," she said.

She is on the school's board of directors, she said, as well as serving on the facility planning committee and pastoral council of the church. Several of her volunteer activities include taking care of plantings and decorations that the public sees at the entrance, she said.

"Watching the children grow and flourish _ it's become part of my heart," she said.

She has been surprised at the attention she has received since the award was announced.

"I never dreamed it was going to have this response," she said.

Among the sponsors of the event is Country Club Automotive Group. Chief Executive Officer Scott Davis said the business is participating because the couple have been "tremendous givers to the community without asking for recognition. She is most deserving."

For ticket information, call the school at 432-1450.

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