Irvin Kaage Jr. and his wife Muriel were known as the couple behind the Kaage’s Corner newsstand on Northwest Highway that’s been a mainstay in Edison Park for 77 years.
To family members, though, they will always be remembered for the enduring love story that spanned seven decades before the coronavirus brought it to an end this week.
Irv Jr., 92, died Sunday at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, and Muriel, 90, followed barely 36 hours later. Both had tested positive for COVID-19.
Just before Irv’s death, the hospital moved their beds together so they could hold hands, said their son, Irv III.
It was a fitting end to the story the Kaages always delighted in telling — and retelling.
Irv Jr. was working at the newsstand then owned by his father, Irv Sr., when a bus driver friend told him about a beautiful blonde woman who rode his bus to downtown Chicago, where she was going to beauty school.
Irv took the hint, boarded the bus and chatted up Muriel Planz for the length of the trip, eventually asking for her phone number.
“I loved him from the first time we met,” Muriel would say. “He treated me like a queen.”
A courtship led to plans to wed. But Muriel’s father didn’t think a young man working at a newsstand was good enough for his daughter, saying he would “never amount to anything.”
The wedding was postponed three times. Then, one Valentine’s Day, Irv called again and asked her to run away with him and get married. So they did, even if they ran only as far as the parsonage of the Edison Park Lutheran Church.
With $100 to their names, they headed to the old Edgewater Beach Hotel for their honeymoon. When they got back, she informed her parents of the marriage. Her father said she could collect her belongings on the front lawn, where he’d leave them.
It was a rough start, but love endured.
And here’s the funny thing about those little ramshackle newsstands that once were found at every major intersection in Chicago. There was a good buck to be made from them in those days, especially for a hard-working, ambitious and personable young man like Irv Jr.
He added two more newsstands, helped his father with a Chicago Daily News delivery route and, with horse-racing in its heyday, worked for the scratch sheets — the daily scorecards for horseplayers.
Soon, Irv was able to buy his new bride a beauty shop just across the street from the newsstand. The couple lived in the rear.
In two years, they saved enough for a down payment on a house on Olcott, where they raised three children: Irv III (known in the old neighborhood as Muggs), Patricia Yauch and Michael, who still runs the newsstand.
Over the years, they added five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and a legion of grateful locals who got their first jobs at the newsstand.
On Tuesday, the Kaage children planned to erect purple bunting on the newsstand to go with a poster of their father bearing the inscription: “He loved Edison Park and the people.”
Edison Park loved him back. Among the tributes on the local chamber of commerce Facebook page, there was this from Chris Black: “As far back as I can remember, he was always at the corner of Northwest Hwy and Oliphant with a smile on his face, rain or shine, selling papers. His positive, happy mood was infectious!”
And this from Jeanette Murphy: “My dad got all his newspapers from the Kaage stand on the way to the train during the week, and from his car window on the weekends. My favorite was the slow down at a green light and the quick and professional transfer!”
Irv Kaage prided himself on knowing his customers by name and which newspaper they wanted.
Muriel Kaage, known as “Mern” because of her resemblance to actress Myrna Loy, gave up her beauty shop after the children were born, though she continued to cut hair for her regular customers once a week in the basement.
She never lost her flair for style and fashion, favoring hats for herself and making sure her husband wore an outfit matching hers if they were going out, Irv III said.
Facing health problems, Irv and Muriel had been in quarantine at an assisted-living facility in Park Ridge at the time of their deaths. They were aware of the coronavirus but not entirely understanding why it kept their family from visiting.
At his 92nd birthday party in February, which also was the couple’s 70th anniversary, Irv said his goal was to live to 100.
Losing both parents at once would seem a double dose of heartbreak, but Irv III said it was better that way.
“They couldn’t be apart,” he said.