Elgin woman dies at 100, said secret to longevity was eating at Portillo's

Longtime Elgin resident Helen Diekman died less than three weeks after turning 100.

Diekman, who died Tuesday, would joke that the secret to her longevity was eating at Portillo's restaurant, where she celebrated her latest birthday and was a regular customer.

Diekman volunteered at Sherman Hospital in Elgin for about 30 years. Her late husband, Clifford, was an Elgin firefighter.

In an April 2014 Daily Herald article, Diekman revealed she kept by her bedside a photo of herself and restaurant founder Dick Portillo taken at the Elgin location's grand opening in 2013. After that, she stopped for lunch up to three times a week, always ordering her favorite meal — hot dog with everything (minus hot peppers), fries and a Diet Coke.

But her visits were halted by a back injury; she said her goal was to recover sufficiently to resume her visits to Portillo's.

She did so, but when she was wheeled into the store by her son Michael, she also was greeted with balloons and smiling restaurant employees, friends and caregivers.

When asked by a reporter for the secret to her longevity, she replied, “Portillo's,” when later confided, “I go to bed early and I eat good. Of course I go to church,” she said. “And I have a lot of friends.”

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