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The best thing about this job is not my enormous salary. It’s the wonderful people I get to interview. I drove past the tennis courts for years before I stopped and talked with Lauren Gillian, who has been using his outsized personality and expertise to teach tennis for seven years.

Interviewing young people was equally inspirational. I did two stories on Karthika Nair. In one, we worked together on a Destination Imagination challenge. I also covered her participation in PMSA’s Pulse Program. People like Karthika and her classmate, Suzy Decker, raise your hopes for the future.

I interviewed two former NFL players from Forest Park and joined the St. Bernardine community in honoring football legend Johnny Lattner. I also sat down with a swimmer who aspired to dive in the Olympics.

I met Bill and Nella Davy, who run the original Ferrara Pan bakery on Taylor Street. They stuffed me with food and filled my notebook with epic stories of baking 8-foot-tall wedding cakes.

I immersed myself in motorcycle culture and found the Harley-Davidson crowd to be anything but menacing. In fact, they were among the most charitable people I’ve met. They’re like the Kiwanis members who let me collect money for peanuts.

Watching the Historical Society come back to life was thrilling. It gave me the opportunity to help out students from Dominican University and work with Diane Hansen, the executive director. We organized a biking history tour of town that was a highlight of my summer. Plus, we get to play ForestParkopoly this New Year’s Eve.

I found a spiritual mentor in Rose Mattax and was glad that she joined the Homeys, along with her husband John. Our growing lunch group enjoyed exploring new eateries like Amelia’s and Tapas 7232; both embody the concept of hospitality. These meals gave us the opportunity to escape our homes and network. That’s how I met Tom and Doris Strieter, who invited me to help out in Lawndale.

I finally learned about the wonders of YouTube thanks to Mike Beyer’s Chicago-centric site. Trading political jabs with Paul Barbahen was fun as always.

I’m not much of a bar guy, but I felt at home in the cozy atmosphere of McGaffer’s, where I had enlightening talks with Chubs and local author Paul Roach. The tavern also displays a caring spirit; the patrons support so many worthy causes.

I received expert writing advice from Brendan Riley, aka Dashiell Hammet and his colleague, John “Raymond Chandler” Cline. I was fortunate to play Scrabble with Lee Maltby, who offered me a job that gave me credit for my years as an ink-stained wretch.

Finally, it was an honor to interview World War II veterans Bob Maroney and Neil Scarpelli. They reflect the character of Forest Park, doing what they can to help their old comrades.

It was a good year. Here’s to 2013.

John Rice

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...