Lehman Cheshier, 98, lives in La Grange, far from his two children and their families, but he has plenty of friends to celebrate his birthday with him at their favorite morning hangout, the McDonald’s restaurant in Hinsdale.

The McDonald’s owner, Dennis Cha, and staff put up birthday balloons and served birthday cake to the group of more than a dozen people who came to the party Wednesday morning.

Cheshier, who drives himself to the restaurant on York Road nearly everyday, hammed it up, making boxing jabs and donning crazy “It’s my 98th birthday” sunglasses, as he posed with a cardboard cutout of Ronald McDonald.

“He’s amazing,” Gale Henshaw of Western Springs said.

Cheshier took up the flute a few years ago and rides his bicycle regularly, with Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook one of his favorite destinations.

About 15 years ago, Cheshier rode a 500-mile bike trip to raise money for a charitable cause.

“We went from downtown Chicago to the Wisconsin border, then to the Mississippi River and down the Mississippi to Quincy,” Cheshier said.

When he was about 70, he said he earned two black belts in karate, having to fight six black belts one after another, he said.

He also does yoga and participates in other activities at the Wellness House in Hinsdale, since he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma about 15 years ago, Henshaw said.

Cheshier’s wife, Catherine, died about 10 years ago, he said.

“He’s a really nice person,” said Yuri Colon, the McDonald’s manager. He orders the same thing everyday, oatmeal, coffee with two creams inside and two extra creams to put in the oatmeal, Colon said.

Cheshier said his grandmother raised me him on oatmeal, and he credits eating that and lots of fruits and vegetables for his longevity.

“I eat very little meat,” Cheshier said.

But he is a regular at Casey’s Market in Western Springs, where they know his order by heart: turkey, lettuce, tomato, green pepper and white cheddar cheese on wheat bread.

The group came to the restaurant individually, but became friends as they saw each other there regularly.

Lynn Soliunas of Willow Springs said she was sitting crocheting in the restaurant one day when they invited her to join them.

Judy Armstrong and Henshaw live within a few blocks of each other in Western Springs and went to Lyons Township High School together in the 1960s, but they did not realize that when they started talking in the McDonalds.

“This is where we all met,” Henshaw said.

The members of the group range in age from 62 to Cheshier, who is the elder statesman, they said.

Cheshier grew up in the small town of Dorans in Central Illinois where he attended a one-room schoolhouse.

His family moved to Chicago and he met his wife, Catherine, at Kelly High School.

Cheshier served in the U.S. Army’s 104th Infantry, the Timberwolf Division in France, Belgium and Holland from 1942 to 1945.

“I was hit in the back, but the shell just rolled off me,” he said. “I think it was a piece of shrapnel.”

Cheshier said he was transferred from the front because his feet were frozen.

After the war, Cheshier worked for the federal government and he and his wife raised two children. He also has two grandchildren, but it’s his friends who keep him company the most.

“He attracts them from all over,” said Elaine Cole of Hinsdale, who with her husband, Ted, was at Cheshier’s birthday celebration.


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