A tumultuous year personally, professionally and politically. That was 2019. Frankly, I’m glad it’s over. But, this doesn’t mean there weren’t positive developments in Forest Park, and we covered many of them in the Forest Park Review.

We started off with a forward-looking piece about the village, as envisioned by urban planner Bridget Lane. A concrete example of progress was the launching of the Bilingual Montessori Lab Academy, as Claudia Medina and her family finished construction of their new school at 1044 Dunlop Ave. At the other end of town, developer Phil Moeller began constructing Forest Oaks, at 7228 Circle Ave., providing affordable housing to seniors. 

We also covered the demise of some local institutions. Bushwood Driving Range was forced to close when its real estate taxes skyrocketed from $15,000 to $300,000. On a much smaller scale, the Rices cleared out our family home on Beloit and discarded 32 years of junk. 

In crime news, local private detective “Sam Diamond” investigated a huge pear heist from a backyard tree in town. Another made-up story chronicled a young woman’s life being saved by her long-lost lover plowing snow with a Bobcat.

We also celebrated real hometown heroes, like crossing guards Nick Lococo and the late Karen Stuart. The life of William “BJ” Jahoda was also recounted. The former mobster-turned-anti-gambling activist, formed an unlikely friendship with gambling opponent Sister Pauletta Overbeck. They both would have been proud of the village’s rejection of video gaming.

We celebrated the life of another activist, Mark Rogovin, who passed away on Sept. 30. Villagers flocked to his memorial service and Mark received well-earned accolades from people around the world. 

Former Mayor Tony Calderone was thanked for his 20-plus years of service and Mayor Rory Hoskins was welcomed. The friendship of BFFs Fiona O’Connor and Maura Flanagan was chronicled. So were the artistic accomplishments of Nikki Barron and Alicia Gomez, who completed two colorful murals at Submarine Tender.

We spotlighted the efforts of others to beautify our village. We interviewed Julieta Aguilera and Beti Vere, who are dedicated to picking up litter in town and we recognized others who are helping in this effort. There was also a committee formed to have the rusty railroad bridge over Desplaines Avenue repainted.

In publishing news, “The Ghost of Cleopatra,” a historical novel written by yours truly set partly in Forest Park, was launched on May 19, 2019. This followed our road trip to Washington, D.C., to see the statue for the first time. The book is destined to become a bestseller, or a “best cellar” depending on how many copies we sell. 

We provided public service columns, such as a guide explaining text messaging lingo to parents, home repair advice that every problem can be solved by turning devices off and on, and musical wisdom that including rhythm in piano playing really helps.

We explained how being broke keeps us young, that we’re supposed to be enjoying life and how there’s no longer fun in the workplace. We provided positive coverage of middle school students, the French nuns of Fraternitie Notre Dame, who feed the poor and Kiwanis raising funds to purchase motorized cars for kids with spina bifida. 

Finally, we have lost so many friends and family members this year that 2019 has been a season of sadness. We look forward to retiring, traveling and enjoying life to its fullest in the coming year. This includes finding more inspirational stories in Forest Park. 

In the meantime, it’s great to be emotionally reborn, enrolled in Medicare and looking forward to monthly government checks. Happy New Year to all who make Forest Park such a special place!

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. Jrice1038@aol.com

John Rice

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.