What can you say about Carl Schwebl? That’s how we started off an editorial about Carl back in 2007 when he retired from the real estate business and closed his office at Madison and Circle. And now seven years later as we mourn his death on Monday, we start the same way.
What can you say about Carl Schwebl? He was, to us, among the ultimate Forest Parkers of a generation now about fully passed. These were the natives of Forest Park who reveled in its ways: the tightly knit community, the energy of boyhood friendships, living up and down Madison Street in its restaurants and bars, the ability to make a difference in a town you loved. Most simply, Carl Schwebl represented everything we love best about Forest Park.
As we said in 2007, he was full of spit and vinegar, an opinion on every subject of local interest, connected through business, marriage, politics and friendship to everyone in town.
We’ve lost another of the holdovers, one of the bridges between the old and the new Forest Park. Carl was a guy who represented the virtues of the old Forest Park. Self-reliant, loyal, grouchy, funny and profane, a guy who could take care of himself in a fight, and who, if you were with him, would take care of you, too.
We admired Carl, though, because he loved his town enough to look clearly at it. Never one to sugarcoat much, he came to realize that the Forest Park where he grew up was changing and not fully for the best. We recall a night walking across Madison Street with Carl when he told us he had nearly quit Forest Park a decade earlier, his frustration with the stagnation so advanced. Madison was on the skids. The political connections that had held the town together were now so inwardly locked that forward progress was stilled.
Carl could have walked away from Forest Park but he chose not to. Instead, quietly, an oddity for Carl, he joined a small group of locals dedicated to moving Forest Park and Madison Street forward in a progressive way and investing their private resources in bringing new life, different life, to the street and the town. And he took great satisfaction in watching the result.
Carl Schwebl’s influence and energy are seen all over this town. All of us at the Review, though, would be remiss in not thanking Carl Schwebl, and the late Bill McKenzie, for their purchase of the Review decades ago when the unexpected death of the publisher left the paper at loose ends, its future as a locally owned institution in doubt. Carl and Bill were worthy caretakers, shepherding the paper into the loving arms of Bob Haeger, who with daughter Laurie Kokenes, set the paper up for a bright future.
Only a special town produces a fellow so remarkable as Carl Schwebl. He was Forest Park and Forest Park was deep in him.