As family, friends and community members gather over the coming days to remember Lorraine Popelka, there will undoubtedly be a few themes to emerge from all this storytelling. Memories of our former mayor will reveal the incredible devotion she had to this community. They’ll recall a woman with a sharp personality who seemingly feared no one. And mourners will realize that by their relationship to her, hundreds of Forest Parkers are now bonded to one another.
This newspaper didn’t always agree with Mayor Popelka’s initiatives or her vision for the community. We criticized her, at times, for being too old fashioned, too tied to old Forest Park ways. But we always knew that Lorraine Popelka was guilty only of falling in love with this community at an early age and working tirelessly to provide that same experience to generations of residents. We could never find fault with that type of passion.
Those who knew her will remember her smile on the softball fields where she developed the first league devoted to young women. The encouraging words spoken poolside as she taught thousands of youngsters to swim over a period of almost four decades. That sense of community a person has when they shake hands for the first time with the mayor of a small town. These moments, and millions of others unique to our own experience, will be the best medicine for mending the community she loved so dearly.
Zoning issues trump all
Village commissioners made an interesting decision Monday in voting not to allow a nearby college access to a sparkling high school facility that is largely underutilized. Forget for a moment that the Proviso high schools leave a bad taste in the community’s collective mouth. Bringing affordable college courses to Forest Park is a no brainer.
Most any community in the country recognizes the positive impact that a higher education facility can have. Aside from boosting the education level of its residents and providing the economy with a shot in the arm, Forest Park may someday take pride in touting itself as the home of a post-secondary learning environment.
The concerns raised by the council in voting not to allow a sort of satellite Triton facility to operate in Forest Park have some merit, but not enough. Yes, there are three remaining conditions of a 2004 approval that have not been satisfied by the high school. But those house cleaning items held up as violations of the village’s good faith are not serious infractions and could be easily addressed. We’d be curious to see, too, what the enforcement effort on the village’s part has been.