Forest Park has evolved from a “stepping stone” community of starter homes to a town where more and more people are putting down roots. Pat and Frances De Maria were somewhat ahead of their time. They moved to Forest Park 60 years ago. They’ve hop-scotched to four addresses during that time but their love for the village and for each other has remained constant.
The couple met in the ’40s when they worked at the same company. Pat cut the cardboard for the boxes and Fran fed the box-making machine. The first time Fran heard anything about her future husband was when he cut his finger and the emergency bell rang. Ever sympathetic, Fran muttered, “Good for the S.O.B.” and went back to work.
The wounded worker later asked her out and the couple began dating. Fran already had her heart set on moving to Forest Park. Her grandfather had built the home at 1135 Lathrop Ave. and she had a number of relatives in town. Pat, who was accustomed to the cacophony of Taylor Street, thought Forest Park was too quiet.
Nevertheless, the newlyweds moved to a town that still had a movie theater, a torpedo plant and the Bloomer Girls playing at Parichy Stadium. Pat worked at Abell-Howe in Forest Park, while Fran stayed home to raise their two kids, Vincent and Camille. She also accepted a short-term, part-time job at the Ben Franklin store on Madison Street. Thirty years later, she was still there. Staying power seems to be Fran’s long suit. She served as an elections judge in Forest Park for three decades.
Camille continued the family’s close-to-home tradition by taking a job at Wilbert Vault Co., while Vince is married to a girl from the neighborhood.
Fran, 80, is still passing the driving test with flying colors and has no problem tooling down the expressway to Vince’s home.
Pat is 83 but still works two days a week at Vince’s company, Mecor, Inc. This couple has more energy than people half their age. It’s funny, though-even though they celebrated their 60th anniversary on Sept. 13, they have their share of disagreements.
“He drives me to drink,” Fran mock-complained. “It’s worse than having 10 kids.”
Easy-going Pat wants Fran’s home cooked Italian food on a daily basis. Feisty Fran prefers non-Italian food, when she can get it. Pat reads the columnists in the Review. Fran might start a column but thinks of something better to do before she reaches the bottom. Fran loves Forest Park, while Pat said he would rather live in Elmwood Park: this from a man who served 12 years as one of our auxiliary policeman.
This is supposed to be an opinion column, so we’ll give the final word to Fran, “Madison changed for the better. We need to change Roosevelt Road.”