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On most summer Sundays in the middle to late 1960s, my late mother’s side of the family gathered for dinner.

Dessert, many times, was homemade ice cream and pie.

My dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Norman lived on Moline’s 15th Street. Meals there were great for three reasons: Aunt Mary treated everyone like gold; Uncle Norman was the worst ice cream maker on the planet; and Whitey’s Ice Cream, just a block away, was always there to save the day.

For 85 years, Whitey’s has been there to save the day. It has been, and will remain, much more than just the corner ice cream shop Chester “Whitey’’ Lindgren started in 1933.

The Tunbergs, who have carried the Whitey’s torch for decades (they’ve been owners since 1953), are wonderful, community-minded folks who care greatly about their employees and carrying on an amazing tradition. Few, if any, have the give-back mentality of Jeff and Jon Tunberg, who learned kindness and generosity from their parents, Bob and Norma Tunberg.

The late Bob Tunberg, who began working at Whitey’s in 1935 and bought the shop in 1953 with wife Norma, put it best: “You never see a sad person with an ice cream cone.’’

Especially at Whitey’s.

Today, the modest and humble ice cream giant operates 10 stores, and its products are carried in several grocery chains across the country. Whitey’s is known worldwide, but such notoriety has not changed the company’s Quad-Cities-first approach.

“May 1 marked the 27th anniversary of our father’s passing, so my thoughts on Whitey’s upcoming 85th anniversary are ones that are filled with gratitude to our parents,’’ said Jeff Tunberg, co-owner of Whitey’s with his brother, Jon.

“Though they did not start the business, they are the ones who deserve the most credit in building the reputation one dip at a time, one customer at a time.’’

Whitey’s has been the employer that offered first jobs to thousands of young Quad-Citians and careers for countless other people. Bob and Norma Tunberg “were parents to so many more young people other than just Jon and myself,’’ Jeff Tunberg added. “They worked long and hard and gave us a priceless example of how to run a family business based on Christian principles. “It is hard to believe, but Jon and I have been involved with Whitey’s more years than Whitey or our parents. We have so many fond memories and could tell ‘war stories’ all day. “We have been blessed to have three key employees with over 40 years with the company. They are more like siblings than employees. We are grateful for the thousands of employees that have served our customers with the ‘Whitey Way.’ “It is indeed our honor to have been making people happy for 85 years. Now it is up to the next generation to carry on that tradition, and we have faith they will.’’ Whitey’s anniversary celebration will begin Monday, May 14, and run through Sunday, May 20. One-dip cones will be sold for 85 cents at all locations. Additionally, customers will receive 85 cents off all regular and special shakes during that time. From 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 20, Whitey’s will offer free one-dip cones to all customers (you must be present to receive the deal). The Quad-Cities has been a great place to grow up, live, and run a fun business,’’ Jon Tunberg said. “We are so fortunate to have had loving parents who taught us the importance of right and wrong when it comes to life and business. We think of our parents often and are always trying to live up to the expectations they set. “We very much appreciate how the people of the Quad-Cities have embraced Whitey’s throughout the years. We are approached by customers practically daily who are looking to compliment us on our employees and how wonderful they are, and we wouldn’t have made it to 85 years without great employees.’’ Hats off, Whitey’s. For always being there.

Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309-757-8388 or jmarx@qconline.com.

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