Forest Park was instrumental in building torpedoes for the Navy at the Naval ordnance station, located on Roosevelt Road where the shopping mall is today. The station employed up to 6,500 workers and produced 19,000 torpedoes until production ended in 1945.
Andrew Cernan, father of Lt. Eugene “Gene” Cernan, was a supervisor at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Plant. When his son, Gene Cernan, was selected to be a NASA astronaut, all of Proviso Township was inspired, as noted by the front page of the Forest Park Review on Oct. 24, 1963.
The Cernan family lived in neighboring Bellwood on the 900 block of Marshall Avenue. Their son, Gene, was a local Boy Scout who enjoyed fishing, horses, sports and hunting. Gene graduated from Proviso High School (now known as Proviso East) in 1952. He then attended Purdue University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1956 and entered the Navy that same year.
In the 1960s, Proviso took great pride in the race to the moon and followed their native son as he traveled to space, and in 1972 he was the commander of Apollo 17. He is still the last person to walk on the moon.
Gene Cernan, shared this, as he left the moon:
“Bob, this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record: that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”
Gene’s affection for Bellwood can be found in his autobiography, Last Man on the Moon, where he mentions that his small home provided excellent training for the cramped quarters of a lunar module.
Commander Eugene Cernan died this past Monday, Jan. 16, in Houston at the age of 82.