CHAMPAIGN – Lee Cabutti, 97, of Champaign died on Thursday September 8, 2022 in Mahomet.
He was born on April 5, 1925 in Stiritz, a suburb of Johnston City, the son of John and Maria Cabutti. He married JoAnne Barlow on October 1, 1955 in Herrin. She died three days after him, on September 11, 2022.
Survivors include a son, Mark Cabutti of Muhammad; a daughter-in-law, Gay White Cabutti of Muhammad; two granddaughters, Elise Cabutti of St. Louis and Emma (Austin) Cabutti Barton of Mahomet; and a cousin, Magdeline Dotta of Peoria.
He was predeceased by a son, Mike Cabutti; two sisters, Rose Brock and Lena Marshall; one brother-in-law, Clem Brock; and a cousin, Eddie Dotta.
Lee graduated from Johnston City High School in 1944 where he participated in football, basketball and track and field. He then attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, from 1944 to 1948, where he competed in football and basketball. Lee played on two championship football and conference basketball teams – the Corn Bowl football championship team and the fourth-place NAIA basketball team in 1944-45 – and was a member NAIA basketball national champions in 1946-47. He was also president of the senior class and of the Sphinx Club in 1947-48. Lee was named the SIU’s Most Valuable Football Player in 1946.
Lee taught and coached at Herrin from 1948 to 1955, where he was head coach of football, basketball and track and field. In 1954-55, his teams won the first football and basketball conference championships in school history.
He then taught and coached in Champaign from 1956 to 1986. He was an assistant football coach for 10 years, athletic director for 25 years, and head basketball coach for 30 years. Lee’s teams won 538 basketball games, making him the winningest coach in school history. His basketball team won third place in the Illinois State Tournament in 1969. His teams played in the Sweet 16 three times.
Lee was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1974 and received the Buzzy O’Connor Award in 1987 (the highest honor given by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association). The name “Coach Cabutti Court” was placed on the gymnasium floor at Champaign Central High School in 2005. He was also inducted into the Athletic Director’s Hall of Fame in 1986.
Lee also spent 40 summers at National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan, the last 30 as director of the High School Boys Division, where he was in charge of 350 high school students from around the world, plus a staff of 35. sports field near the High School Boys Division was named “Lee Cabutti Field” in 2002.
Lee served for six years on the board of the Developmental Services Center in Champaign. He helped add a fundraising banquet and brought in speakers such as Bobby Knight, Whitey Herzog, Steve Fisher, Lou Henson and Bill Geist.
Lee was also active in church work. He was co-chair of a fundraiser to build the Holy Cross Parish Center and led a fundraiser to add eight classrooms to Holy Cross School. Lee was also a Eucharistic minister and usher at the church.
He spent his retirement years working on 5 acres of land west of Champaign selling firewood, apples, peaches, raspberries, blackberries and tomatoes.
Lee also organized a travel group that took trips all over the world. This group now numbers more than 150 people.
He received the “Keys to the City of Champaign” along with his wife, JoAnne, from former Mayor Don Gerard on March 18, 2015, for his volunteerism and service to the community.
The family would like to give special thanks to Bridlebrook Assisted Living in Muhammad, as well as Transitions Hospice, for the exceptional care they provided.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Champaign County Humane Society and/or Transitions Hospice.
Condolences may be submitted at morganmemorialhome.com.