I’m lucky. I got to talk and become friends with Mr. Bucholtz as an adult. He coached my younger brothers in Little League back in the ’60s. I also knew of him and his family as a member of St. John Lutheran Church.
When I got the bug to get involved in local community quality-of-life matters, I would seek him out, visiting him at the Bucholtz family home to talk about mostly Forest Park issues. Those conversations would include local politics, standing up to village hall when unfair, community development, change and growth, (he served on the Zoning Board), Proviso High School (he was a 1939 Proviso High School Graduate), old houses, Forest Park old-timers, and Forest Park history.
I always appreciated his kindness and openness in listening to what I had to say or ask. I think I was jealous of him for knowing a 20th-century Forest Park that was different from the one I knew. When Al was born in 1921, the 29th president of the United States was Warren G. Harding. When he was a kid and growing up, the town was not yet bisected by I-290, either airports or strip/shopping malls. There were more people than cars, an abundance of small families with kids, three older Lutheran churches with large congregations, the streets were mainly bricks, lots of trees, and I often wonder how quiet it must have been on a summer night or on a Sunday morning compared to today.
Al Bucholtz reminded me of another tall, lanky Illinoisan because of his demeanor, being a good neighbor, a community supporter, and civic-minded and honest volunteer. He served our country for two years in Germany in WWII, saw stuff, probably had the ability to live elsewhere, but came back to his hometown, and his family and loved ones in Forest Park. Al often attended Forest Park Memorial Day and Veterans Day festivities. He may have been Forest Park’s last surviving WWII veteran.
We last talked last year in town along with his son, Ken. I will miss seeing Al (I always called him Mr. Bucholtz) and Mrs. Bucholtz, when we would run into each other in town or at a local breakfast joint. He was never too busy to say, “Hello, Bob, how are you doing?” Through his good nature, his problem-solving abilities, his commitment to give back as a volunteer, and being a charitable Christian, his life’s work and deeds all contributed in making Forest Park a better place to live in.