The loss of a son and a restaurant

Germain and Sara raised two daughters and a son above the restaurant. When the kids were grown, they replaced the swingset and lawn out back with a restaurant patio.

Then, on the restaurant's 30th anniversary, Sara died. Their son, Jeremy, and his wife, Yasmina Ksikes, became involved in managing the place. Still, Roignant was there most nights, talking to customers, playing trumpet with an accordionist on Thursday evenings, his French accent a permanent part of the charm.

But there were money problems, he said, despite the fact that in 41 years there was hardly a Saturday night at 8 without a wait.

So a few months ago, he decided to close. His son and daughter-in-law moved to Los Angeles. He'd bought his childhood home in Brittany, France, a few years ago and he figured he'd go stay there. Maybe get a little dog.

As the creperie's closing approached, Jeremy called to say he wanted to come help his dad pack up the place. He arrived on a Monday.

On the following Thursday, Aug. 1, Roignant found him dead, of what the family says was a heart attack, in the family home above the restaurant.

"He was a beautiful boy, 6 foot 4," Roignant said. "I will never know all that went through his heart, his head, what he did the night before."

The relentless cheer he has shown in the past few days suddenly dissolved.

"We can't talk about that too much."

On Friday morning, after his trip to the cemetery, Roignant brought scores of Jeremy's books from the upstairs apartment down to the back garden. He laid them on a table, planning to ask customers to take one.

By evening, there would be a line out the door, the fragrance of crepes on the grill, the clamor of memories, more endings and goodbyes leading to the last one.

Before I left, Roignant leaned across the table and tapped my notebook.

"Somewhere in there," he said, "you're going to have to put 'c'est la vie.'"

mschmich@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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