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Former mayor and lifelong village resident Lorraine Popelka died over the weekend after a months-long battle with the cancer that sapped the once feisty politician of much of her strength. She was 75 years old.

Popelka was first elected to public office in 1979 as a village commissioner, where she served eight years. For the next 12 years, Popelka held Forest Park’s highest elected office and is the only woman in the village’s 100-year history to do so. Long before she was a politician though, Popelka made a name for herself in the community by volunteering as a swim instructor for the park district. Throughout her life, Popelka remained dedicated to the park district and the families it served.

Popelka was recently honored by the village for her service to the community when commissioners voted to designate a two-block stretch of Circle Avenue as Popelka Lane. For the last 48 years the civic leader has lived at 611 Circle Ave., just one block from the house where she was raised.
With the help of a wheelchair, Popelka was on-hand to receive the village’s thanks personally during the street-dedication ceremony in May. She died on Sunday, June 24.

Those wishing to offer their condolences to Popelka’s family may do so during visitation services on Wednesday, June 27 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Zimmerman-Harnett Funeral Home on Madison Street. Funeral Mass will be held the following day at St. Bernardine’s Church at 10 a.m. Interment will be at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.

A full report on the life and times of Lorraine Popelka will be in Wednesday’s Review.