Lanphier High School graduate Renato Favero, of Springfield, returned for an alumni football game on Aug. 27, which also happened to be his 100th birthday. He took a handoff on his one and only play and, with a little assistance, advanced a few yards and not only crossed the goal line for a two-point conversion but spiked the ball for emphasis.
Current Lanphier football coach Don Goff led the assembled crowd and cheerleaders in singing "Happy Birthday" to Notti, one of his nicknames, along with Not, Notto and Sarge. It was a weekend of celebrations for Favero's high school and family, with memories flowing. The 1941 Lanphier graduate also played baseball and basketball, later got into softball, golf and bowling, and counts the late Robin Roberts, baseball Hall of Famer and fellow Lanphier graduate, as a childhood friend.
"At 16 you had to keep in shape, work hard and keep your grades up," Favero noted. "My mom wouldn't let me play if I didn't keep my grades up."
Favero's younger brother, Rudy, was a three-sport standout at Lanphier who later officiated high school and college sports and was inducted into the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
The 10th of 11 children born to Italian immigrants, Favero still lives within a half-mile of where he grew up on Springfield's north side. As the only one still living, he says it is hard getting used to his siblings no longer being here.
Not long after graduating from Lanphier in 1941 and beginning his career, he was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. Favero said his mom would not let him enlist because "war just kills kids your age." He was promoted to sergeant and served as an Army combat engineer in Belgium, France, Holland, Germany and Denmark, with a specialty in building bridges, repairing roads and removing minefields. Favero will be honored for his veteran status by being in the lead car of the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival parade, which takes place Sept. 22 in Springfield.
He met his future wife, Rita, at a baseball game at Lincoln Park, and they were married in 1947 at the St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church on North Sixth Street. They had nine children, and the family has grown to include 27 grandkids and 33 great-grandchildren, many of whom arrived for the 100th birthday weekend. Favero's children are scattered across five states (Illinois, Missouri, Wyoming, New Mexico and Minnesota). He doesn't use a computer or have an email account or cellphone – although his wife does – and they stay in touch with phone calls and visits.
A sheet metal worker by trade, much of Favero's career was spent at Metal Air and E.L. Pruitt. When Local 218 of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation workers (SMART) honored him in 2021 for 80 years of membership, the union said his most memorable jobs included White Oaks Mall (opened in 1977), the attorney general's building (completed in 1983) and the Illinois Department of Transportation building (completed in 1987). Favero was a trustee for the local union for 25 years and said he never missed a day of work.
Favero said he has witnessed a lot and endured a lot, and he loves God and his country. He remains hopeful about the future. "I am optimistic for my grandkids," he said. "If they pay attention and get good grades and keep out of trouble and obey the laws, they will be fine."
Asked to elaborate about his family, he said, "I am proud of them because we have never had anyone in trouble; they were all good students, all on the honor roll and all paid for their college. They all get along. We have the greatest family in the world."
Ed Wojcicki of Springfield is a former full-time journalist and has been freelancing since 1979.