Forest Park history to be honored by Illinois historical society

Des Plaines River Anthology makes state history splash

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By Jean Lotus


A new book about Forest Park history will be travelling to the governor's mansion in Springfield in April.

The Historical Society's 2013 publication, Des Plaines River Anthology: Historic voices from the graveyards of Forest Park is a finalist for a 2014 award from the Illinois State Historical Society, said Augie Aleksy, who conceived of the book seven years ago.

Historical society director Diane Hansen Grah submitted the book to the contest, knowing it would pique the interest of Illinois historians.

 "One of our goals is we want to get out there into the community," Grah said. "Des Plaines River Anthology will get new people interested in our history, and that's a great thing for Forest Park."

"This award will definitely help the historical society improve our visibility," she added.

Aleksy shepherded the book of poetic vignettes to completion with the help of a dozen professional authors and Forest Park publisher Emily Victorson of Allium Press.

Aleksy, now vice-president of the historical society board, was inspired by Edgar Lee Masters' classic 1915 work, Spoon River Anthology, and authors wrote in the style of the classic Illinois poetry collection.

"I personally like it far more than Spoon River Anthology," Aleksy confided.

Voices of those resting in Forest Park's friendly confines include the parents of Ernest Hemingway; serial killer Belle Gunness; Emma Goldman and other important members of the anarchist movement; evangelist Billy Sunday; Elizabeth Taylor's husband Mike Todd; as well as victims of the Eastland disaster, the Iroquois Theater fire, and the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus train wreck.

Aleksy asked some of his favorite writers to submit pieces, and they did, for free, he said.

Included are vignettes by authors Jay Bonansinga, Frances Dean McNamara, Richard Lindberg, Robert Loerzel and Diane Pirrone. Others included Carol Hauswald , Sheila Trainor, Tracy Aleksy, Michael Black, Arnie Bernstein, Rachel Michaels and Katie Rufa.

Forest Parkers past-and-present contributed to the book, including Stephanie Kuehnert, John Rice, Emily Victorson, Ken Knack, Mark Rogovin, Katheryn Atwood and Amy Binns-Calvey.

Forest Park playwright and director Binns-Calvey adapted selections from the book for a live performance Oct. 26, 2013 at the Park District. 

The book is entered into the publications category, for works that, "compile, preserve, and/or interpret state or local history, thereby increasing community awareness."

The Historical Society will find out if they won "Superior Achievement," "Certification of Excellence" or "Award of Merit" at a ceremony in Springfield April 26 at the Illinois Executive Offices in Springfield.


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Paul Zeissler  

Posted: February 8th, 2014 11:02 AM

Congrats Augie--save a few shelves in your store for this best seller--proud of you and your crew for this book.

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