Longtime Mundelein orchard founder to be remembered by friends and family

Late orchard founder's roots remained in Mundelein

Updated 6/27/2013 5:26 AM
  • Robert Quig, founder of Quig's Orchard in Mundelein, rides a float in 1997 with his grandson Nathan in commemoration of the business' 50th anniversary. Quig, who died June 1, was known for his love of conversing with visitors.

    Robert Quig, founder of Quig's Orchard in Mundelein, rides a float in 1997 with his grandson Nathan in commemoration of the business' 50th anniversary. Quig, who died June 1, was known for his love of conversing with visitors. courtesy of Quig family

The last apples were picked at Quig's Orchard nearly eight years ago, but fond memories of its congenial founder and proprietor remain so strong a special memorial is planned to celebrate his life.

Robert Quig died June 1 in Wisconsin.

Just after World War II, Quig, an Army veteran who had graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in agriculture, planned to start a mink farm along Route 83 in Mundelein. Instead, he sold apples from trees on the property at a roadside stand to supplement his income.

For the next 58 years, Quig and his family operated the business while adapting to changing times, adding a restaurant, bakery, country store, greenhouse, seasonal attractions and other features that became staples for generations of area residents.

However, by 2005 health issues and the stress of operating in what had become a residential area prompted Quig to reluctantly retire. He sold the quintessential family-owned business and moved to Pickerel, Wis., between Eagle River and Green Bay, joined by his son Alan and his family.

"The whole family, we loved the business. We still miss it and we miss the people down there," Alan Quig said.

The elder Quig died June 1 at a hospital in Pickerel with his family at his bedside. A celebration of his life was held June 6 at Quig's Maplewood Golf Course in Pickerel. But his roots remain in Mundelein, where friends and customers became synonymous.

"I can't go any place without somebody saying, `I used to pick apples there,'" said his son Robert, who lives in Mundelein.

Peppered with questions about local services, the family decided to give those who knew Bob Quig an opportunity to say goodbye and reminisce.

The family will greet guests from 1 to 2 p.m., with the sharing of memories to follow, Sunday, July 21, at the Stonewall Orchard Golf Club on Route 60 in Grayslake.

"We've got so many employees and customers that were so close to him," Robert said. "We thought that would be kind of nice. This is where his real home was."

The elder Quig considered employees and customers to be like family, and he thoroughly enjoyed what he did for a living.

"I don't remember him ever saying, `Gee, I wish I did something else,'" Alan said. "He just loved going out and talking to people. One of his biggest assets was to visit with people, and (he) just had something in common with everyone."

Mundelein Assistant Village Manager Mike Flynn said Quig was a notable person.

"He was a visionary in a sense. He started this orchard and really kept adapting to changing times," Flynn said. "People would travel far and wide to come here."

Initially, homemade cider, jellies and doughnuts were offered. A small restaurant opened in 1987, and a few years later it was expanded and relocated to overlook a courtyard and waterfall.

More attractions followed as the emphasis changed from agriculture to agritourism, according to Pam Berek, Quig's daughter. Hayrides, pony rides, a bounce house, a dunk tank and a beer garden followed as part of the Harvest Days fall festival, which in the last several years featured a haunted hayride and haunted house. At peak times, Quig's employed 155, and it has been said almost every teenager in Mundelein at some point had worked there.

"It was kind of a ritual in the fall, we'd have our windows open and you could hear the kids screaming from the haunted apple orchard," said Village Trustee Ray Semple, who grew up in Mundelein and lives near the long-cleared former orchard where he took his kids. "It was almost like going backward in time when you went to Quig's."

When the orchard and adjoining commercial property were sold, the buyer closed the restaurant within a year. Flynn said people remember it vividly and wish it was still open. Buildings on that portion of the property remain vacant.

The 18-acre former orchard had received preliminary village approval for 70 single-family homes. But that didn't materialize, and no pending plans have been filed with the village.

For Berek and her brothers, who made the business their life's work, the state of their former home is a sore spot.

"People still ask me what's going on over there," Robert Quig said. "I don't know. It's a shame."

Chances are the talk will be of better days July 21 at Stonewall Orchard.

"It's for anybody who wants to come," Berek said. "The tent holds 200 but I have a feeling that might not be enough."

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