Loyalty was never in short supply for Frank Volpe, the longtime owner of Brookfield’s the Cordial Inn. He never remarried after his wife passed away in 1981, and he visited her grave every day the year after she died. And he fed his miniature schnauzer, Sam, orange sherbet and steaks that he’d often cook at the bar, never dog food.
Mr. Volpe, 91, a Brookfield resident since 1959, died peacefully at his home on Sept. 23, 2011, according to his family. He was buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside last week, with a picture of his wife, Mary “Dolly” Volpe, and the ashes of his dog.
Never one to remain stationary, Mr. Volpe continued working at the Cordial Inn, 9207 31st St., until August, decades after reaching retirement age, making him the oldest bar owner in the village, according to the family.
“He was just a working guy. He always felt that he would work to the end. He never thought of retirement,” said his oldest daughter, Annette St. Jean. “The bar actually kept him going. It gave him something to look forward to every day.”
Mr. Volpe was born Nov. 4, 1919, in Chicago to Italian immigrant parents, Santo and Antonia Volpe. He grew up in the city and stayed there for much of his early life before moving to Brookfield in 1959, living there in a house that he never left for more than a half century.
“They bought that house in Brookfield, and he never moved,” said his youngest daughter, Kay Williams.
It was just four years later that he and his older brother, the late Anthony Volpe, bought the Cordial Inn, which was just across the street from his home.
St. Jean recalled growing up in Brookfield walking home from school and waving at her dad through the window of the bar. Occasionally, they would stop in for lunch, back when the Cordial had a full kitchen (now, they have a grill behind the counter, where they fry up their “best burgers in town,” as the family puts it).
Mr. Volpe would never hesitate to assist someone in need, often helping friends to make rent payments or cover bills, according to his granddaughter, AnnaMarie Stone, 25, of Downers Grove. She loves riding horses, and her grandfather would pay for her to go riding while she was in college, just to make her happy.
“He knew how much it meant to me,” she said. “I’m decent at it, but I’m not a world-class rider that he’d be furthering a career. But he paid for it because he knew I enjoyed it. Finances were never a reason for us not to do something.”
Stone said that Mr. Volpe was known for his cheesy one-liners and stories. And his love for food ran deep, as he frequented local Italian restaurants or cooked up batches of his famous pasta sauce (the family called it “gravy”) or doctored up a Tombstone pizza with spices and toppings to make it the “best pizza in the world.”
Mr. Volpe was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Volpe (nee Dambra); his parents; and his brothers, Anthony and Dominic Volpe. He is survived by his daughters, Annette St. Jean, Debbie (the late Scott) Frushour and Kay (Tim) Williams; his grandchildren, AnnaMarie Stone, Jessica Williams and Michael Frushour; his brother, Angelo “Paul” Volpe; and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral services have been held. Hitzeman Funeral Home, Brookfield, handled arrangements.