Celebrating 60 Years of Park Forest History

Barbara Moore speaks at Park Forest's 60th Anniversary

Barbara Moore addresses the gathering for the Park Forest 60th Anniversary Celebration. (Photo: Wendy Heise)

Photo Gallery: Park Forest 60th Anniversary Celebration

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– More than 150 gathered at Freedom Hall to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Park Forest on Sunday, February 1, at 12 p.m.—sixty years to the day from the date of the Village of Park Forest being incorporated. The Village of Park Forest and Park Forest Historical Society co-sponsored the celebration, which included a continuous display of photographs from the archival collection of the society. The society offered a display on the 1950s Park Forest House Museum and its activities. The Village had multiple displays including souvenir pens and key chains with the new 60th Anniversary logo and copies of the 60th Anniversary edition of Discover Magazine.

Village Manager, Tom Mick and Society president, Jerry Shnay shared master of ceremony duties in the hour long ceremony held in the Nathan Manilow Theater. Speakers included Tom Mick, Jerry Shnay, Village President John Ostenburg, Leona DeLue, Former Village President, Ron Bean, Barbara Moore and Therese Goodrich.

A common theme running throughout the speeches was the livability of the community, what a great place it has been to raise children, and that “something extra” Park Forest has.

Mrs. DeLue with her husband Ross and 5 year old daughter, Mary, moved to Park Forest in late August 1948, one of the first three families to move in to the rentals in Park Forest. Since the DeLue family lived in Park Forest longer than the others who moved in that day, they are regarded to be the first family of Park Forest. As befitting a First Lady, Leona received a standing ovation as she walked to the podium. She relayed the story of how she came to live in Park Forest after spending six months living with her parents out of state with her daughter, then six months in a hotel in Chicago because of the housing shortage. She described what a joy it was to be in her big, sunny apartment with her family in one place, and how much living in Park Forest meant to the family. Both Leona and Ross DeLue gave oral history interviews which are available online via www.parkforesthistory.org, or in hard copies stored in the Adult Services Department of the Park Forest Public Library.

Barbara Moore spoke about coming to Park Forest in the 1960s to find better schools for their children. She was apprehensive at first about how they would be received as people of color in Park Forest. Her fears were allayed when she found she was not only welcome, but was soon invited to be president of the school PTA. Involvement with the League of Women Voters and volunteering at Village Hall eventually led to her becoming an employee working with as Director of Community Relations, a position she retired from just last year. She said that she often hears from old neighbors and friends who ask, “How are things going in the village I loved?”

Ron Bean spoke about his time as Village President, working to revive the DownTown, and to work on the first reincarnation attempt for Norwood Shopping Center. Although he has moved to Olympia Fields, he says he is very happy that his son continues to live in Park Forest with his family, and he enjoys seeing his grandchildren take advantage of the many amenities the village offers.

Therese Goodrich spoke about moving to Park Forest from Spokane, Washington in 1954. She too was almost immediately involved in community activities, and found the village to be a wonderful place to raise a family. The main theme of her message was, “Don’t take Park Forest for granted. Treasure what we have. Find out more about Park Forest’s history and be sure to pass it on.” She pointed out, “Tomorrow, today will be our history.”

Jerry Shnay announced that this spring fourth graders in two Park Forest schools will begin using a curriculum unit on Park Forest history which has been developed by Suzanne Brown, Jean Bernstein and May Wiza. Since it was Super Bowl Sunday, he paused for a commercial, plugging the 1950s Park Forest House Museum, the February 9 program of the society on the Lincoln Highway around Chicago, and the Dolls of the 1950s exhibit which is now open at the museum, urging the audience to become active members of the society and to visit the museum.

The 1950s Park Forest House Museum has photos newspapers and sales brochures from the earliest days of the village. Mr. Shnay pointed out that a visit is a wonderful way to learn more about the life our pioneer citizens lived and to read about how the Village came to be incorporated on February 1, 1949.

Following the ceremony, Leona DeLue and President Ostenburg cut a 60th Birthday cake. The crowd lingered over refreshments, reminiscing and taking in the colorful displays.

The Village hopes to hold another anniversary event of some kind later in the spring, and plans to have a 60th Anniversary theme for the Fourth of July Parade.

Personal Note: The Village staff, especially Jason Miller, and the society board members, especially Jerry Shnay, are to be congratulated for the wonderful results of their labor in putting together the photograph displays, and for how very nice the Discover Magazine is. This author sends a big “Thank you” to the Village Manager and Village President for planning the event and commissioning the anniversary logo.

Photo Gallery: Park Forest 60th Anniversary Celebration (Photographs are available for purchase.)

Related: Valentine Decorations and 1950s Dolls at 1950s House Museum