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Chuck Boedicker, dead at 79, owned iconic Glenview Dairy Bar

When the Glenview Dairy Bar opened more than half a century ago, the U.S. had 48 states, Disneyland had yet to open, and Dwight Eisenhower was president.

It was 1955. Over the years, the little shack by the Glenview train station developed into a sort of town square — built from ice cream. People came for soft-serve cones dipped in 15 flavors, including blue raspberry, butterscotch, cake batter, cotton candy, toasted coconut and two kinds of chocolate: milk and dark.

On hot summer nights, boys and girls flock there to check each other out while having Mr. Slushies, banana splits, shakes and sundaes. Kids jump from their bikes and stare, transfixed, at the big menu at the order windows. Customers have included Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump, an alum of nearby Glenbrook South High School, and the late Cubs great Ron Santo.

In a rite of spring, people arrive early to mark the shop’s annual opening day. Some camp out to be among the first in line at the stand at 1015 Harlem Ave., one of the oldest businesses in the north suburbs.

When the Glenview Dairy Bar reopens in early April, the sign in its window sign will still proclaim, “Chuck & Janelle Welcome You.” But for the first time in a quarter-century, owner Charles R. “Chuck” Boedicker won’t be there. He died Jan. 16 at 79 after a struggle with lung cancer.

Young Chuck grew up in downstate New Douglas, a farm and mining town with a population back then around 550, according to his sister, Marilyn Hall. Their father owned a Shell station where farmers would sit around a pot-bellied stove and complain about corn and soybean prices.

Chuck Boedicker went to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, studying journalism. But, his sister said, “He decided he didn’t want to sit at a desk for the rest of his life. Chicago was beckoning.”

In Chicago, he worked in the sheet-metal industry. Still, his sister said, “Charles always wanted an ice cream store. I guess he thought that’d be a lot of fun.”

Janelle and Charles Boedicker operated the Glenview Dairy Bar, one of Glenview’s oldest businesses, for 26 years / Provided photo
Janelle and Charles Boedicker operated the Glenview Dairy Bar, one of Glenview’s oldest businesses, for 26 years / Provided photo

He met Janelle Rabe, who would become his wife of 57 years, when he moved into the apartment building where she lived. In the 1960s, they settled in Glenview. When Mr. Boedicker took the train to his sheet-metal job in Chicago, “He’d always see the guy who owned the Dairy Bar at the time, cleaning, and he always kept it so nice,” said their daughter, Luane Gabuzzi, who continues to operate the stand. “It seemed to be the most fun place to be.”

Mr. Boedicker started his own heating and air-conditioning business, Air Systems of Glenview. His wife worked at Avon. And 26 years ago they bought the Glenview Dairy Bar.

“He always liked to see the smiling people’s faces,” said their son, Chip Boedicker.

The couple worked double-duty at their day jobs and the new business, said another daughter, Teri Synnestvedt. During the April-to-October ice cream season, they often were at the Dairy Bar seven days a week — some days from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Eventually, their children and grandchildren worked there, too.

Mr. Boedicker loved a good gag to lighten things up on busy summer nights. Customers didn’t know he had a machine in the back that mimicked flatulence, Teri Synnestvedt said. Sometimes, he turned it on when he bent over.

Charles R. Boedicker with employees at his Glenview Dairy Bar, including a grandson, Sam Gabuzzi, who sits next to him. / Provided photo
Charles R. Boedicker with employees at his Glenview Dairy Bar, including a grandson, Sam Gabuzzi, who sits next to him. / Provided photo

In their later years, the Boedickers enjoyed spending time at their condo in Longboat Key, Florida, where they’d wear their Dairy Bar T-shirts and get recognized by vacationers or transplants from back home, said their son-in-law, Justin Synnestvedt: “People would be walking up to him and saying, ‘Hey, Chuck.’ ”

Mr. Boedicker raised money for Sr. Paulanne Held’s Needy Family Fund at Glenview’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic church. He also served as a grand knight with the Knights of Columbus.

Charles Boedicker, owner of the Glenview Dairy Bar. / Family photo
Charles Boedicker, owner of the Glenview Dairy Bar. / Family photo

When Janelle Boedicker was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he cared for her for almost a decade. “He said for better or for worse, in good times and bad,” said Justin Synnestvedt.

Other survivors include nine grandchildren. Mr. Boedicker and his wife, who died in 2013, donated their bodies for scientific research. A visitation is planned from 10:15 a.m. until the start of an 11 a.m. funeral Mass on Feb. 27 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.