BERWYN, ILL. — Renato G. (Ron) Turano, a longtime leader of Turano Baking Co., a past chairman of the American Bakers Association and a former Senatore to the Italian Republic, died Dec. 5 after an extended battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He was 79 years old.

A native of Castrolibero in southern Italy, Mr. Turano immigrated to the United States at the age of 15 in 1958. His father Mariano, who had been a coffee salesman in Italy, in Chicago helped his brother Eugenio who operated a small bakery. In 1962, Mariano started Turano Baking Co., specializing in 4-lb loaves of Italian bread delivered to neighborhood homes.

In a 2006 interview after he was elected ABA chairman, Ron Turano recalled that he and his brothers worked for the business from the time they were in school.

“We would come back from school, the trucks would be loaded,” he said. “We would deliver the bread until 8 or 9 at night. Then we’d come home and do our homework. The next day would start the same way.”

Mr. Turano’s father retired in the early 1970s, and for the next four decades Mr. Turano and his brothers Umberto (Tony) and Giancarlo ran the business.

“We’ve been working together for 44 years,” he said in 2006. “It’s something we’re proud of. We work together every day. It’s not the easiest thing, but there is a lot of respect and professionalism between the three of us.”

From its home delivery origins, Mr. Turano said the baking company expanded its distribution to supermarkets and restaurants and later became a supplier of fresh and frozen baked foods to major foodservice companies. The company operates five baking plants in the United States, including two in Illinois and one in Georgia, Florida and Nevada. The company’s products include specialty bread and rolls distributed to supermarkets and, for foodservice, hamburger buns and a wide array of artisan products such as baguettes, French rolls and ciabatta.

As chairman of the ABA from 2006-08, Mr. Turano advocated for the involvement of smaller and mid-sized bakers in the organization and industry affairs. Consolidation of the largest bakers heightened the importance for the ABA of engaging smaller bakers, but Mr. Turano acknowledged smaller baking companies often weren’t availing themselves of the benefits of belonging to and engaging with an industry group that offers assistance around issues ranging from human resources to technical support and safety.

“The unfortunate thing is that the smaller the place, the busier the people are,” he said.

Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the ABA, described Mr. Turano as a “larger-than-life individual who embodied service, leadership and above all else family.”

“His leadership at a critical time for both ABA and IBIE put both organizations on the path to long-term strength for the entire baking industry,” he said. “Ron was universally respected and admired in the baking industry.”

Leading the ABA only two years after the establishment of the Grain Foods Foundation, Mr. Turano was an advocate for the group.

“It is something we have talked about for many, many years,” he said in 2006. “We had talked about making things happen, and finally we did. We need to keep it going.”

Mr. Turano was president of Berwyn-based Turano Baking for 25 years and served as co-chairman of the company until his death. Together with his father, brothers and uncle, Mr. Turano in 2013 was elected to the Baking Hall of Fame.

The same year Mr. Turano became chairman of the ABA, he was elected as Senatore to the Italian Republic, representing North and Central America. According to Turano Baking, in his role as Senatore Mr. Turano “provided a voice in the Italian Parliament for Italian citizens living abroad, bolstered consular services and helped Italy reduce the bureaucracy that prevented economic development.” He was elected to a second term in 2013.

Active in Italian-American and other civic affairs, Mr. Turano was past president of Italian- American Civic Organization of Berwyn, past president of Calabresi in America Organization, past chairman of Societa San Francesco di Paola, past president of Italian Chamber of Commerce of Chicago and past president of the Columbian Club of Chicago.

Mr. Turano was predeceased in 2019 by his wife of 54 years Patricia A. Turano. He is survived by his children Lisa Turano, Renee (Robert) Novelle and Mario (Wanda) Turano; nine grandchildren: Renzo, Nico, Reno, Malina, Gabriella, Alessandra, Gioia, Renato and Rocco; and brothers Umberto (Eugenia) Turano and Giancarlo (Karen) Turano.

A visitation will be held Thursday, Dec. 9 from 4 to 9 p.m. at St. John of the Cross Parish, 5005 Wolf Rd., Western Springs, IL. Funeral services will be held Dec. 10 at 11 a.m. at St. John of the Cross Parish for a Mass of Christian Burial. Entombment will be private. 

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent in the name of Senatore Renato Guerino Turano to the Les Turner ALS Foundation, 5550 W Touhy Ave, Skokie, IL. 60077.