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posted: 8/30/2012 10:46 AM

Family keeps dad's spirit alive by volunteering at Naperville's Last Fling

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  • Loved ones of Ron Buonauro, the late founder of Buonauro's Cafe in Naperville, volunteer each year at Last Fling in his honor.

    Loved ones of Ron Buonauro, the late founder of Buonauro's Cafe in Naperville, volunteer each year at Last Fling in his honor.
    Courtesy of the Buonauro family


Ron Buonauro once won a $25,000 gift certificate to Hugo's Frog Bar and Fish House in downtown Naperville.

It was his prize for hitting a hole-in-one -- a feat the late owner of Naperville restaurant Cafe Buonauro's and avid golfer accomplished three times in his lifetime.

With his reward, he booked the backroom at Hugo's and treated members of all his favorite charities, his friends and his family. And, in turn, he took the gathering as an opportunity to raise $30,000 for those charities.

"That was his first thought, that he'd get these guys together and he'd take care of the bill and then he raised money for their organizations," said his daughter, Tina Marie Buonauro McConnaughey, who helps run the family business located in Fifth Avenue Station, 200 E. 5th Ave.

The Buonauro family carries on that giving spirit each year by volunteering at Last Fling.

They're among 1,000 volunteers who will join forces to pull off this year's festival, which typically attracts between 250,000 and 300,000 people annually Friday through Monday of Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31 to Sept. 3.

"Volunteering at the Last Fling is definitely a tradition for a lot of folks in Naperville," said Courtney Brown, the fest's public relations chairwoman.

Volunteers allow every dollar the fest generates to go back to the community, said Rosemarie Breske Garvey, this year's co-executive director.

The Naperville Jaycees have donated almost $2 million back to various community organizations in the last 20 years, she said.

Members of the Ron Buonauro Memorial Foundation, which formed in 2008 after Ron lost his battle with cancer, dedicated 26 people to volunteering at the fest, and they'll take on two bigger tasks. They'll operate the sponsor's tent Saturday evening and run the beer tent Sunday.

It's not what can you do for me, but what can I do for you, say those who knew and loved Ron Buonauro.

In the restaurant, Buonauro was known for his giant smile and for visiting each table to personally greet every customer to come in.

At home, he cooked each family meal for 20 people.

"We could bring four friends home for dinner and not ask first," Buonauro McConnaughey said. "It didn't matter cause he'd always cook for 20."

In the community, he shared that same generous and giving spirit -- whether it be volunteering or donating to his favorite organizations -- among them Little Friends.

"My dad, he was a giver, he always donated and was the first to help out if they needed it," Buonauro McConnaughey said. "He was a good man."

The Ron Buonauro Memorial Foundation raises $25,000 to $30,000 annually for local organizations on his behalf.

And they'll be among hundreds of others who relish seeing others enjoy Last Fling.

"It's about how neat it is to stand on the carillon and see so many people filling the streets," Breske Garvey said. "We love it, and it's why we've done it for 30-plus years."

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