It’s fun playing history detective. My assignment was to uncover the identity of the donor who gave us the park at 16th and Circle. We started the investigation by getting the property identification number from the Proviso Township Assessor. Armed with the PIN, we were ready to visit the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.

I kept putting this off, because searching property records written in cursive can be a tough job at this busy office. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the office was no longer a beehive of activity. What a difference an economy makes. A crew of clerks helped me every step of the way and I left there clutching a copy of the deed.

Next stop was the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest. Before I was even seated in the research room, Director Frank Lipo was handing me articles and obituaries about the donor and her family. Last stop was Forest Home Cemetery, where the always-helpful staff gave me a map showing the donor’s final resting place.

So, here’s the story: Miss Frieda Kammer was born in Germany in 1867. At the age of 23 she married William Rieger and the newlyweds moved to 15 Keystone in River Forest, in 1890. William owned the Concordia Marble Works located on the northwest corner of Gale and Madison. The couple had two daughters, Louise and Hildegarde.

William continued to rise in the local business community, serving as a vice president at Forest Park Bank and as a River Forest village trustee. In 1914, he retired from making cemetery monuments. Ten years later, he purchased and subdivided a parcel of property on the south end of Forest Park.

William died at the age of 83 in 1948, just before the couple’s 58th wedding anniversary. Two years after she lost her husband, Frieda granted the title of nine 35-foot lots to the village of Forest Park in exchange for $10. It’s been said that she stipulated the property be used as a park, but the deed doesn’t mention this.

On July 30, 1955, Frieda died and was laid to rest with William. Hildegarde Horn and Louise Whalen later joined them in the family plot. We could not find a living relative to tell us what had prompted Frieda’s generosity.

Without her precious gift, south Forest Park would not have a playground, baseball diamond and soccer field. Like many Forest Parkers, I’ve enjoyed countless hours playing sports at 16th and Circle.

I don’t know whether the park should be named for the Rieger family, or the Lambke family, who maintained the park for many years. But at least we know whom to thank.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.