Who would know that a year ending in “13” would be so fortunate for a Forest Park columnist? I’m particularly thankful for the many good-hearted people I’ve met and the privilege of hearing their stories. I even got some help covering sports from my young correspondent, Samantha Apraham.

At the other end of the age spectrum, World War II vets Larry Miller and Bob Maroney told me about their thrilling Honor Flight to Washington DC. Tom and Doris Strieter, also up in years, helped out weekly at the Harmony Food Pantry in the ravaged Lawndale community. 

I met the Strieters at a gathering of the Homeys.  I’m proud to say our lunch group has been meeting monthly since February 2011. We’re homebound workers who gather at Forest Park restaurants to have lively discussions and make social and business connections.

I also made a valuable connection outside Forest Park, when I got to know Gladys Turner. She’s the 78 year-old from Dayton, OH who was the driving force behind placing a headstone on the grave of Professor Joseph Corbin in Forest Home. 

Thanks to Gladys, Professor Corbin was included in the Des Plaines River Anthology, a book celebrating various characters buried in Forest Home.  A performance of the Anthology was staged at the Park. It was such a professional and stirring production, I think it should be an annual event. The book was a joint project of The Historical Society of Forest Park and Allium Press of Chicago. The society had a banner year under the guidance of Executive Director Diane Hansen. It sponsored an historic restaurant walk, a bike tour of the village and other innovative events.

Bob Cox became the new president of the society, succeeding Augie Aleksy. Bob had another reason to celebrate in 2013. He finally finished the renovation of his 19th  Century house. Theresa Giglio and Bob Crane also marked milestones, retiring after years of dedicated service to District 91. 

I visited Theresa’s school, Grant-White, to pass out dictionaries with Rotary Club members Jerry Lordan and Anibel Pepper M.D. Actually, I spent a lot of time in classrooms this year, teaching French and Latino students how to write in English. 

I received invaluable support from Forest Park entrepreneurs who came downtown to address my French students. I even had some musical guests: a cello concert from Daniel Gasse and his sons; harmonica lessons from John Milan and dance videos shown by Amber Alonzo. 

Speaking of music, I recorded my first CD of solo piano music at Music Box Records, earning the nickname “One Take.”  In other rock news, Just Dan, former front man for the Lemurs, is now part of the Tam & Dan duet. They’ve been entertaining patrons with their eclectic set list up and down Madison and at McGaffer’s.

The people at McGaffer’s were so helpful when we were writing the preview for the No Gloves Tournament. Chubs set me up with legendary pitcher Mike Tallo and other veterans of softball’s golden age. I also toured the renovated Hall of Fame and attended the inductee banquet.

For a different sporting experience, I went to the Chicago Area Alternative Education League basketball tournament. It was like an alternative universe, where the score didn’t matter but manners did. John Martin was honored for his decades of work with disadvantaged young people.

John knows how to motivate students. So does Rosa Chun, who went to South Korea to teach English. It was a huge step for Rosa but she is feeling so much joy and satisfaction, she might sign up for another year. Laura Osterlund, a street musician who played in Forest Park, is now teaching music in South Africa. She credited a “Review” article and a video by Forest Park’s John Sheehan for triggering the chain-reaction that led to her job.

Apart from all of these inspiring developments, I got to write about castles on Dunlop, a squirrel in the bedroom and the joys of living in an empty nest. 

And this year my daughter got engaged. To borrow a phrase from a friend: Writing for the Review, teaching college and doing detective work – It’s like getting paid to throw snowballs. 

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.