LEMONT – Living to an old age seems to be the norm for the men in the Wend family.
Emil Wend, who first settled his family in Lemont years ago, died in 1979 at age 101.
Two of his sons, Emil and Karl, lived to ages 98 and 95, respectively.
Milton Wend, the oldest of four brothers and one sister, died Sept. 16 at his home in Lemont at age 103.
Albert – the last surviving sibling at a relatively young 89 – revealed the secret to the family’s longevity.
“As Milton would say, it was clean living and having a Happy Hour every afternoon,” he said.
The Wend family is best known in Lemont as the owners of Wend’s Restaurant and Lounge on Main Street.
The property, which started off as novelty shop, also served as the Wend family’s home, Albert said.
Albert described Milton as the leader of the four brothers and a bright person.
According to Albert, Milton went to the University of Notre Dame for a couple years but had to leave when the Great Depression hit because his family no longer could afford it.
He worked as a bank cashier at First National Bank of Lemont before joining the U.S. Coast Guard and serving on a naval ship during World War II.
When Milton and his brothers returned from military service, they helped their father run the family restaurant and tavern.
Susan Donahue, museum coordinator for the Lemont Historical Society and a longtime Lemont resident, said the restaurant was a popular gathering place for people in the community.
“It was a friendly atmosphere and definitely family orientated,” she said.
Angeline Pondini used to play at the restaurant as part of a musical group called the Kubalewski Sisters.
She said she has fond memories of performing at the restaurant and remembers Milton as an outgoing person.
“He was a very nice, friendly person,” she said. “He was a wonderful person to know.”
The brothers retired and closed Wend’s in 1984.
But even in retirement, the four brothers would get together at the restaurant almost every afternoon and talk about the day’s events, Albert said.
Milton continued to live at the property until he sold it in 1995, Albert said.
That year, Milton and Albert moved into a house on Wend Street, which had been named after their father in honor of his 100th birthday.
“We just felt that we’d like to be on a street that was named after our father,” Albert said.