The first (and only) woman to hold the highest elected office of mayor in Forest Park was Lorraine Popelka. She served as mayor for 12 years and as a commissioner for eight years before that. She was well known throughout Forest Park especially through her work as a swim instructor and director of the “Learn to Swim” program at the Park District of Forest Park. She also directed the women’s softball program for eight years and the volleyball program for ten years, served on the Garfield School PTA for 12 years (including holding positions of president and treasurer), and was a member of the District 91 Citizens Advisory Council, the Village Traffic and Safety Committee and the St. Bernardine school board. Lorraine Popelka’s name is synonymous with service to the people of Forest Park, and the park at Adams Street and Thomas Avenue was named in her honor.
In 1987, Lorraine Popelka was elected mayor of Forest Park. She voted at Garfield School, down the block from where she grew up and later raised her own family. Her service to youth touched generations of Forest Parkers.