Some people could care less about history, for others it’s a passion. Diane Hansen’s interest in history was first stirred by her father and grandfather. As a girl, Diane used to watch historical documentaries with her Grandpa, who was a WWII vet and Civil War buff. She later developed a curiosity about local history when she spearheaded the 150th anniversary celebration of her church, Immanuel Lutheran.
Diane also found family history fascinating and is working on the complete genealogy of both sides of her family.
Now, as the new Executive Director of the Historical Society of Forest Park Diane has all the qualifications a small-town organization could want. She has a history degree from North Park University, along with a Masters in Non-Profit Management. She served as the Research Center Director at the Historical Society in Oak Park for seven years. She also helped found the Hillside Historical Society, which is housed in an 1877 farmhouse donated by that village.
As Research Center Director, Diane learned how to catalogue the collection, similar to the work Dominican University students performed in Forest Park. She also coordinated volunteers, planned fund-raisers and special events and led tours like the annual “Tale of the Tombstone” excursion through Forest Home Cemetery. Membership drives, exhibit design Ð it would be easier to describe what Diane didn’t do.
Naturally, she became familiar with Forest Park history. She noted that the three neighboring villages used to be one community but each has unique features. Forest Park’s cemeteries, military facilities and its aversion to any kind of Prohibition set it apart from Oak Park and River Forest.
Diane left her job in 2007, when her daughter Anna was born but was itching to use her education and expertise again on a part-time basis. When she was hired last month, she saw that the reorganization of Forest Park’s society would require many of the tasks she performed during the Hillside start-up.
These duties will include helping the board to revise by-laws, create a website and recruit members and volunteers. One of her most important jobs, though, will be applying for grants to fund improvements like new software, scanners and materials for preserving the collection. She foresees the society developing a logo and marketing themselves to the community, by offering research services.
The long-term goal, of course, is to find a permanent home for the collection. To this end, Diane is planning fund-raisers that include a history lesson on Forest Park. She also wants the local citizenry to be able to see the collection, either in person, or on-line. The society will have a display in front of Centuries & Sleuths during Summerfest. There will be membership and volunteer forms available. Otherwise, those who would like to donate, join or volunteer can call the society at (708) 232-3747.
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.