by Leonard A. Amari
As a result of the vision of Anthony J. Fornelli and his dedicated committee, the Italian American Executive Hall of Fame was established at Casa Italia in Stone Park in 2008. The roll of honorees to date reads like a veritable Who’s Who, including Patrick Arbor, Salvatore Balsamo, “Bud” Cataldo, Jerry Colangelo, Paul Davies, Nella Ferraro, Anthony Fornelli, Amadeo Giannini, Lee Iacocca, Steve Lombardo, Gildo Mazzolin, Phyllis Muccianti, Richard Parrillo Sr., Phil Stefani and Mariano Turano. Induction ceremonies take place in the Chandelier Room of Casa Italia, where portraits of the honorees permanently adorn the walls. This year’s truly deserving inductees are Donald “Buddy” Romano and Jasper Sanfilippo.
Donald J. “Buddy” Romano
Donald Joseph Romano — known as “Buddy” to friends, family and colleagues — is an example of the rewards of hard work, dedication and faith. Like his father before him, Buddy’s indefatigable work ethic has led to unprecedented successes in the liquor distribution industry. His 60-year marriage to his wife, their seven successful children, and their ever-growing number of grandchildren, are evidence of Buddy’s dedication to his family and his home. A truly humble man, Buddy attributes all of his good fortune to the grace of God.
Upon the death of their father in 1963, Buddy and his brother Michael assumed complete control of Morand Brothers, and changed the name to Romano Bros. Beverage Co. Under their leadership, Romano Bros. grew into one of the largest wine and liquor distributors in the country.
In grammar school, Buddy began to display his leadership and athletic abilities. He served as President of the Student Council and was captain of the football, baseball and track teams. He attended Fenwick High School as an outstanding student athlete, starring in football, track, basketball and boxing.
In 1946, he entered Notre Dame, and to this day, his alma mater holds a special place in his heart. Despite his size, Buddy played guard for the legendary Fighting Irish football team, winning the respect of greats such as Johnny Lujack, Emil Sitko, Leon Hart, and Buddy’s lifelong close friend Jack Connor.
Buddy remains a dedicated graduate of both Fenwick and Notre Dame, having served as a member of the board of governors and past president of the Notre Dame Club of Chicago, and currently serving as a lifetime member of the Fenwick Board of Directors. Additionally, Buddy serves on the Board of Advisors for Mercy Hospital, Catholic Charities, and the Jeffrey Foundation, which helps improve the quality of life for special needs children.
Jasper B. Sanfilippo
Jasper B. Sanfilippo entered the family business when he was 9 years old, and when his father fell ill in 1963, he took over leadership of the company. In 1963, sales were $300,000. Jasper soon pushed sales to $220 million. He shrewdly purchased rival companies, built modern processing plants, expanded his sales force, and transformed a small family business into a goliath in its field.
Today, John B. Sanfilippo & Son Inc. is the second largest distributor of nut products in the nation. The company processes, packages, markets and distributes over 2,000 different products under different brand names. Jasper constantly searched for quality and consistency in the processing of his products. This became vitally important because of increasing consumer sophistication and the growth of national products. Under his leadership, the company achieved greater control and consistency.
Jasper once expressed his outlook on business when he said: “I think probably one of the most important aspects of my philosophy on doing business is to provide tremendous service to the customers. It’s rubbed off substantially on our people and our employees, and it’s probably been the one single-most reason we’re successful today.”
Jasper and his wife have five children and numerous nephews and nieces, all of whom work in the business. But as hard as Jasper worked for his company, so too did he pursue his hobby: collecting automatic musical instruments.
Jasper’s collection includes 70 steam engines; 200 orchestrions and nickelodeons that weigh 800 to 7,000 pounds each; 125 penny arcade machines; 30 outside-horn phonographs; 30 upright slot machines; 25 music boxes; a full-size 1881 locomotive; three vintage 1920s Rolls-Royces; and miscellaneous Americana from the late-1800s to early-1900s. These items are housed on his estate and are available for charitable fundraising events.