Luchini celebrates 100th birthday

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Lea Luchini tries her hand at jet skiing at the age of 86.

What do you do when you turn 100? You throw a party, of course! That’s exactly what Lea Luchini did on Feb. 18 when family and friends gathered in celebration at Papa Joe’s in Orland Park. A Facebook campaign by her eldest grandson yielded more than 200 birthday cards, which Luchini presented to Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau at a village board meeting on Feb. 20.

Lea was born on Feb. 15, 1923, to Emil and Adele Tonelli in Gragnola, a mountain hamlet in Northern Tuscany. When she was 2, she moved to the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago with her mother to join her father, who was already working in the area. In 1943, she met WWII Navy Seaman August “Gus” Luchini in Roseland, marrying him nine months later at St. Willibrord Catholic Church.

After raising daughters Adele, Alice and Anita in Roseland, the couple moved to Orland Park in 1973. After Gus retired from the company he co-founded, Froll Tool & Die, he and Lea began selling his hand-crafted jewelry and gold-plated plants at local craft shows. The couple traveled to Italy in 1974, marking Lea’s first trip to her ancestral home since she left as a 2-year-old child. Her beloved husband passed away in 1994.

Lea enjoys sewing, crocheting and knitting for friends and family, and she doesn’t let anything stop her from enjoying life. She continues to travel and try out new experiences, including jet skiing at age 86! Her greatest pride are her three children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

— John Kieken


About John Kieken

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