LATHROP — Bennie Gatto - arguably the most loyal fan and supporter of high school sports in Lathrop - was honored Friday when Lathrop High named its football field in his honor.
This year marks his 47th season this year serving on high school football chain gangs including now at Bennie Gatto Field. That is in addition to a lifetime of setting the bar in terms of community involvement
For three or so years Gatto did double duty working the chains at East Union and serving on the chain crew at Lathrop High. During the same time he helped the Spartans launch the Boosters club and often would volunteer to help prepare the game BBQ. At East Union, he played a big role in getting the Boosters started as well while both Bennie and Joyce are credited with started the EU crab feed that still ranks as the Boosters’ most successful fundraiser each year.
Gatto is working the Lathrop High chain gang this year with Tony Martin, Gene Neely, John Servain, and Tosh Ishihara.
Gatto played two years of football at Manteca High in 1946 and 1947 as an end. He enlisted in the Navy and served from 1947 to 19567 during which time he earned his GED.
He worked for 32 years at Best Fertilizer that later was bought by J.R. Simplot. He never being absent for a single day.
Gatto served on the first Lathrop City Council elected in 1989 when residents voted to become an incorporated city. During his eight-year tenure on the council he became Lathrop’s second mayor. He also has served more than 14 years on the Lathrop Planning Commission.
He served 22 years as a volunteer firefighter and served on the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District board from 1981 to 2010 including six years as chairman.
He has served on the Manteca District Ambulance board as well as the now-defunct Lathrop Water District Board. Gatto was inducted into the Manteca Hall of Fame in 2001 for his tireless community service.