Five months after a street was posthumously named in her honor, the praise keeps coming for Beverly Thompson.
Thompson died in August after having served as the director of the community center for 10 years, and her impact on this small town was never in doubt. A portion of the street where she lived for 41 years was dedicated to her in October, and over the weekend her legacy was once again the focus. On Friday, April 24, a flowering pear tree was planted outside the community center where, for so many years, she was the face of fun in Forest Park. The next morning, Thompson’s widower tossed the first pitch to start the 2009 Little League season that will be played in her memory.
“She deserves it,” Lou Thompson said of the recognition his wife continues to receive. “She’s done a lot for the community.”
Thompson and her husband moved to Forest Park in 1967 and she quickly got involved at the community center that was just a block away on the corner of Jackson and Desplaines. She started out teaching a cooking class, and then began working there part-time. She organized trips for seniors and steadily became a constant presence at the center. Thompson was named director in 1998.
Rich Gray, president of the local Little League, said it was an easy decision to dedicate the opening day ceremonies to Thompson. Anytime the league needed a building to host various programs, Thompson never hesitated, he said. Several years ago she threw out the first pitch for the softball season. Gray said that he later learned Thompson bought a ball to practice with.
“She’s a friend of everyone here in Forest Park,” Gray said during the ceremonies on opening day.
Every player is wearing a patch on their right sleeve this season that has Thompson’s initials inside a ball. In perpetuity, said Gray, the start of the season will be known as the Beverly Thompson Opening Day Ceremony.
Mayor Anthony Calderone (right) was among those on hand.
In the same spirit of renewal, the Bradford pear tree planted outside the community center will be commemorated with a bronze plaque calling attention to Thompson’s years of service. Dozens of children participating in an after-school program at the center also attended the planting, and packages of flower seeds were distributed to onlookers.
With Mayor Anthony Calderone at his side, Lou Thompson put the first shovelful of dirt on the young tree’s roots.
“We lost a great lady,” Calderone said.