Tom Bonner, a Summit Hill native who is a retired educator and coach, was honored by the Panther Valley Irish American Association last night.

But he, in turn, focused the tribute to others.

"A lot of people have helped me down the way," he said. "I feel very blessed to have the family I have and the friends I have."

Bonner, 63, of New Ringgold, received the association's annual Shamrock Award during the 66th annual St. Patrick's Day Banquet, which was held at Kelly's Irish Pub in Lansford.

Jim Kurchak, president of the Irish American Association, asked one of Bonner's children, Thomas Bonner Jr. of Orwigsburg, to hand the plaque to his father.

"This is well deserved," the son said to his father.

When Bonner received the award, among those he singled out were his parents, the late James and Loretta (Sweeney) Bonner. His mother, who was a nurse for many years, was the Shamrock Award recipient in 2001.

Bonner was always involved in sports. During his high school years at Marian High School, he earned eight varsity letters, held the school record for points scored in football in his senior year, and gained the record in the 100 yard dash on the track team.

He served in the U.S. Army, then began his teaching career in 1975 at St. Joseph's Parochial School in Summit Hill. He later taught for 29 years in the Tamaqua Area School District, retiring in 2007.

He coached football for 28 years, and track for 29 years. He also spent 15 years as a PIAA basketball official.

He is married to the former Susan Swartz. They have two sons, Tommy and his wife Kate, and Michael and his wife Sipi, of Philadelphia; and a stepson, Joey DiGirolamo and his wife Lacey of Dimock, Susquehanna County. His siblings were present at the banquet. They are James and his wife Barbara of Cape May, N.J.; Mary and her husband Stan Dakosty of Tamaqua; Joseph Bonner and his wife Sandy of Tamaqua, and Liz and her husband Robert Mongi of Summit Hill.

The guest speaker for the event was John L."Crimpet" Crampsie, a boyhood classmate and lifelong friend of Bonner. Crampsie, formerly of Summit Hill, was a classmate of Bonner at St. Joseph's Parochial School in Summit Hill. Bonner went on to Marian High School while Crampsie graduated from Panther Valley High School.

Crampsie is the owner and found of the largest commercial/industrial real estate firm in the Lehigh Valley.

He spoke about the importance of keeping the tradition of the Shamrock Award alive. He praised the Irish American Association for its work and urged that the tradition continue.

The first Irish Shamrock Award was presented in 1962 with the recipient being the late Col. Frank McCartney of Lansford, who became head of the Pa. State Police.

The master of ceremonies was Paul McArdle Jr. of Summit Hill.

The welcome was given by Kurchak.

Offering the invocation was Rev. Francis P. Schoenauer, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Nesquehoning. The benediction was given by Rev. James Burdess, pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Summit Hill.

Entertainment was by Pat and Shane McGeehan who led the audience in a sing-along of Irish tunes.