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updated: 2/10/2013 8:09 PM

Former Mt. Prospect trustee dies at age 104

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  • Former Mt. Prospect trustee and River Trails school board member Theodore Wattenberg, pictured here before his 100th birthday, died Saturday at age 104.

    Former Mt. Prospect trustee and River Trails school board member Theodore Wattenberg, pictured here before his 100th birthday, died Saturday at age 104.
    Daily Herald File Photo


The key to Theodore J. Wattenberg's longevity can be found in the classic concept of the Golden Mean.

Wattenberg, a former Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights resident, passed away Saturday at the age of 104.

"One of his favorite sayings was everything in moderation," said his son-in-law, Irwin Shechtman. "He never overdid anything. He didn't overeat. He exercised but he didn't overexercise."

Exercise would be a leisurely walk or bike ride.

One of his daughters, Margaret Shechtman, said he had another secret: his interest in other people.

"People would always ask what was the secret to his longevity. He always took more interest in other people and what their needs are and how he could help other people, as opposed to his own needs," she said.

That interest included serving many years on the Mount Prospect village board and four years on the Mount Prospect River Trails Dist. 26 school board.

Born in Berlin, Germany, Wattenberg immigrated to Chicago after World War I, at the age of 16. While living with his aunt and uncle, and working as a busboy, Wattenberg earned his law degree from DePaul University. He met his sweetheart, Marianna Massi, at the PM Club in Chicago. They were married for 71 years.

Wattenberg worked for many years as an attorney for Allstate Insurance. He grew to love his adopted country, and felt so blessed that he wanted to give back, said his daughter, Patricia Plautz.

"He did it in the form of volunteer work and service to the community, which was extremely important to him," his daughter, Margaret, said.

One way he did that was to serve for 16 years on the Mount Prospect village board, ending his tenure in 1990. During that time, Margaret said, he never worried about how others voted, but stuck to his conscience.

"He would stand on his principles," she said. "Of course, as anybody would say, his family was absolutely of primary importance to him. His friends and neighbors were truly a top priority."

In recent years, Wattenberg did real estate closings, served as president of the German-American cultural center DANK, worked as an election judge and consultant to political candidates, and wrote numerous letters to the editor to local newspapers.

In those letters, Plautz said, he advocated, among other things, TVs in the courtrooms.

In one 1995 letter, he wrote: "While Illinois legislators are working to tighten the definition of drunken driving ... those laws are useless, if their enforcement is frustrated by the judicial system." The letter continued, railing against the many continuances received in these cases, He then mused upon what would happen, "if we had TV cameras and let taxpayers watch their tax dollars at work, just as they had done in the O.J. Simpson trial."

Wattenberg and his wife spent the winter months in Florida after enjoying many trips in the United States and Europe. They cherished their two daughters, seven grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.

As Wattenberg once said: "I have fulfilled the American dream with the loving help of my wife, Marianna, family and friends. I am proud of my re-elections as well as my legal work and role model to others. When others judge you well, you know you are a success."

Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. today at Glueckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the funeral home, with interment at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the American Heart Association or consider volunteering in Wattenberg's memory.

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