This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to live in such a caring community. Last Saturday, this compassionate spirit was on display, when Twisted Cookie hosted a drive for the food pantry. Later that day, residents packed The Park building for a touching memorial to Mark Rogovin. 

We don’t just care about our neighbors; many of us care about our physical surroundings. They plant flowers and vegetables at the Community Garden, they decorated the Circle Bridge with murals, they form groups to clean up litter. They are dedicated to preserving the green space at Altenheim. 

Our newly-formed Beautify the Bridge Committee is dedicated to repainting the rusty railroad bridge that spans Desplaines Avenue. Mayor Hoskins is among the people who wants this eyesore to be beautified. He appointed me to head the committee and we’ve already assembled a knowledgeable team. 

Jason Sippel is a young married architect, who just purchased a home in Forest Park. Jason passes the bridge almost daily and has noticed some structural deterioration. He believes the rusting structure makes the surrounding area look very forbidding. He foresees transforming it into a welcoming gateway to the village.

Besides Jason, we have Tom Marhevko on board. When Tom served in the Coast Guard, he oversaw the repainting of Coast Guard vessels. He has vast experience in sandblasting and painting metal.  

Before our first committee meeting, I met with company president Steve Sakoutis and project manager Sid Moulas from Eagle Painting & Maintenance Co. Inc. to survey the bridge. Steve is from Greece and has been painting bridges since 1967.   

Steve eyeballed the 60-foot span and said painting it would cost $400,000, if we included the underside of the bridge. However, just repainting the bridge deck, would cost less than $200,000. He pointed out that the bridge had been painted with lead-based paint. He believes there is a federal program to remediate lead-covered bridges.

Sid sent us a written estimate that listed all the railroad’s requirements. Eagle would furnish the labor, equipment, materials, permits and disposal fees. They would sandblast the bridge to “near white” and cover the structure with one coat of paint. Their lump sum price is $115,000.

Tom, Jason and I met to formulate questions for the railroad, painting contractor and the village. Before moving forward, we wanted to secure the official backing of the village. Mayor Hoskins proposed that a village official join our committee to make us genuine agents for the village. He proposed that his assistant, Tanzla Davis-Rodriguez, join our committee. 

We forwarded emails from the railroad and painting contractor to bring Tanzla up to speed. We look forward to meeting with her in the mayor’s office. 

Meanwhile, we received support from a faraway source, my friend Dorothy Misleh. Dorothy grew up at 419 Hannah. As a favor to her, I researched the house’s history and took contemporary pictures. She’s been a faithful correspondent ever since. Dorothy is 97 years old but sounds like she’s 27. She lives in Florida and never fails to send me a card on my birthday.

This year, she included a handwritten note: “I think it’s wonderful you are taking on a ‘big job’ with the railroad bridge. I hope you have lots of help and lots of luck.”

Dorothy has never even seen the bridge. She moved from Forest Park, before the bridge was built in 1959. Though she’s been gone for more than half a century, Dorothy still cares deeply about Forest Park and religiously reads the Review. 

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for all the big-hearted people in town and the ones who love Forest Park long after they leave. 

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.