The beloved former owner of a Wheeling restaurant and bar that bears his name has died.
Joe Kilcoyne Sr., the longtime operator of Kilcoyne’s Redwood Inn, passed away Friday in Florida, where he had a home. He had been ill and was one day shy of his 88th birthday.
Daughter Rita Kilcoyne-Hart said she and her siblings are remembering their dad as a storyteller and jokester who relished spending time with customers at the Redwood Inn.
“He just loved the people,” said Kilcoyne-Hart, of Lindenhurst.
The youngest of five siblings, Kilcoyne was born at Highland Park Hospital in 1934 and grew up in Deerfield. He left school young to work, then joined the U.S. Army, serving as a cook at a base in New Jersey in the early 1950s.
In 1961, Kilcoyne married Dorothy Berube-Baruffi and adopted her three daughters, Rita, Roseann and Mary.
“We came with my mother as a package deal,” Kilcoyne-Hart said.
The couple had two sons, Joey and Bobby. Bobby died young.
The mechanically minded Kilcoyne owned two auto service and gas stations, in Deerfield and Highland Park. He left that industry in 1971, however, just as gasoline prices were rising in the lead-up to the first energy crisis of the 1970s.
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“He said, ‘I gotta get out of here,'” Kilcoyne-Hart remembered.
Kilcoyne bought what was then the Redwood Inn at 342 N. Milwaukee Ave., on what now is known as Wheeling’s Restaurant Row. He added his last name to the restaurant rather than completely changing the moniker because “Redwood Inn” was written in wall tiles in the kitchen, his daughter recalled.
Joe and Dorothy took shifts sleeping on a cot in a backroom at the restaurant in the early days.
“They were at it 24/7 until they got it down,” Kilcoyne-Hart said.
Kilcoyne loved schmoozing with patrons and telling stories.
“His ‘wondrous stories’ is what we called it,” Kilcoyne-Hart said.
Kilcoyne was a good-natured but unrepentant practical joker, too. His daughter recalled the time he tossed small firecrackers at Dorothy in the kitchen at the Redwood Inn — and when he put a for-sale sign in front of their home on the night he threw a surprise birthday party for her.
That one took some explaining.
“He wanted to leave Illinois and move full time to Florida, which my mom did not want to do,” Kilcoyne-Hart said.
And then there was the rubber egg he’d serve to people at breakfast.
“I can still see his face light up thinking someone was going to try and eat the rubber egg,” Kilcoyne-Hart said. “He just thought that was so funny.”
Kilcoyne sold the Redwood Inn to Joey in 1992 and semiretired to Florida with his wife. She died in 2006.
The Kilcoynes had kept a house in Buffalo Grove and he came back to Illinois frequently. He enjoyed spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Village Manager Jon Sfondilis called Kilcoyne and the Redwood Inn local institutions.
“Joe’s passing is certainly a loss to the community,” Sfondilis said. “We look forward to honoring his memory at the restaurant for years to come.”
Visitation is set for noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at Kolssak Funeral Home, 189 S. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling.
A funeral Mass is set for 10:30 a.m. Nov. 21 at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, 181 W. Dundee Road, Wheeling. Interment will be in All Saints Cemetery, 700 N. River Road, Des Plaines.
Survivors include four children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.