By John Rice
'It was the greatest moment in my life," said Jackie Schulz after receiving her first-ever community service award from the Kiwanis Club of Forest Park. Kiwanis gave Jackie the glass plaque at their annual Awards Dinner on Jan. 9, citing her "Dedication and Commitment to Forest Park."
It's no coincidence that this was Kiwanis' most heavily-attended dinner, with over 100 guests packing Francesca Fiore's. They came to honor the woman who faithfully wrote her "Talk of the Town" column every week for 47 years.
Jackie is so humble, though, she didn't hog the spotlight at a ceremony in her honor. She preferred to sit quietly with her neighbors and listen to others being praised. No one received more accolades than the late Ed O'Shea, for whom the award is named. The O'Shea family was well-represented by his wife, Irene and their children. Commissioner Joe Byrnes gave a heartfelt speech about how Ed had helped him become a better police officer.
Jackie, on the other hand, does not make speeches. "If I would have said anything, it would have been about Ed O'Shea," she said. "He was so smart, funny and nice." Jackie is the last person to see her own qualities and the positive impact she's had on Forest Park. However, it should have been a clue when Kiwanis rescheduled its November dinner because Jackie had broken her left arm just before Halloween.
Jackie is still hurting, but no one at the dinner noticed. She looked positively radiant. "I was stunned and delighted," she said. "They gave me more glory than I deserved." Apart from honoring Jackie, the dinner included an official Kiwanis meeting. President Chris Harris welcomed guests and Secretary Jerry Lordan offered an invocation before the meal.
After the dinner, Jerry shared his feelings about Jackie. "Gospel means good news," he observed. "Jackie is an evangelist who shares good news about our community. She shares positives, milestones and community events. You know you've arrived when Jackie writes about you. She helps to bring the community together in a spirit of celebration."
Jerry may be a great admirer but he had to insist that Jackie make an acceptance speech. Jackie thought there had already been enough speechifying, so she kept her address to four words: "Thank you, very much."
Others expressed their thanks, as Julie Thompson passed out sponsorship checks to the Forest Park Youth Soccer Association, Little League and the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. There was also unofficial gratitude to Kiwanians like Tom Michael, who quietly collects food from grocery stores and brings it to the Community Center.
Jackie has no need for food donations, thanks to the generosity of her neighbors. "I have enough food to feed the whole town." Neighbors have also cleaned her home. Most importantly, they have cared for her 17-year-old cat, Annie, and taken her dog, Barkley, for walks. Jackie recalled she was "running" with Barkley down the street, when she tripped and broke her arm.
Jackie faces a lengthy recuperation. She admits that the injury, lack of activity and cold weather have gotten her down a bit. Rather than cursing the winter darkness, she turned on her fake fireplace. While the artificial flames flickered, her Kiwanis award sat in its place of honor on the mantle.
When she's feeling better, Jackie hopes to contribute an occasional column. In the meantime, the people of Forest Park miss reading "The Gospel According to Jackie Schulz."
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