Park Forest 2007 – The Year In Review

Updated 12-31-07 with more highlights from July and August. 

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)— Tonight, we pause at midnight to welcome 2008, and bid adieu to the current year. Before raising the glass to toast our fortunes and wish each other, "Happy New Year," eNews Park Forest offers a recap of our top stories from 2007. Each story referenced below includes a link to the original article. A simple click will take you back to the details and photographs.


Our January 1, 2007 issue featured an interview with the "man with the Chinese house," Mr. Mark Reed from North Orchard St. In The Bonsai Creations of Mark Reed, Mr. Reed shared his philosophy and photographs of some of his creations. His trees may be not be alive, but each one tells a living story.  Park Forest residents may have seen some of Mr. Reed’s bonsai creations in the Park Forest Library, or at the Tall Grass Arts Association. Designing bonsai trees actually grew out of a desire to put some finishing touches on Zen garden near his front door.   “After I did the house, there was a small space as you approach the door.  I wanted a Japanese tri-landscape rock garden. It’s basically like a Zen garden, where they have the rocks there with moss, and they rake the gravel periodically.  I wanted that kind of look, so I did a miniature garden on my front porch.  And I wanted a centerpiece for it.  So I decided, ‘I’ll put a bonsai tree there!’ Doing bonsai was an outgrowth of the garden on the front porch.”

Al Riley Chosen to Succeed State Rep. Robin Kelly was the breaking news on January 2. Former Park Forest Village Attorney, now Judge, Mat Delort made the announcement at the January 2 Village Board meeting.

January 4 brought somber news: The Park Forest Police Department issued a press release announcing the arrest of an alleged murder suspect in connection with the May 27th, 2006, shooting murder of Pierre Stacey. "Jamon M. Davis, of Montgomery, Illinois, formerly of Oakwood Street, Park Forest was charged with 1st Degree Murder for shooting Stacey to death," according to a press release issued by the PFPD. Davis was 16, according to the release.

The next week brought good news for eNews Park Forest, which was accepted for membership in the National Newspaper Association. The Village Board also took up discussion of a non-smoking ordinance. Cook County’s Clean Indoor Air Ordinance was to become effective throughout the county on March 15, 2007. This county-wide ordinance basically banned smoking in all public places and places of employment, including such places as restaurants, bars, offices, and other places where people gather.

Rev. Dr. Frank A. Thomas was the guest speaker at the 8th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration on Monday, January 15 at Governors State University.  Dr. Thomas, an ordained minister, currently serves as the Senior Pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Church in Memphis, Tennessee.  He spoke to a packed auditorium.


U.S. Senator Barack Obama announced to his supporters on January 16 that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, and plans to make an announcement February 10 on his ultimate plans regarding a presidential run in 2008.

Park Forest police released a statement on January 19, 2007, regarding a possible arson/suicide on Monee Rd.  On that date, shortly after 1:30 in the morning, police were investigating a report of gun shots in the area of Monee and Western.  Investigating patrol units observed that the single family home located at 8 Monee Rd. was engulfed in flames. Park Forest Fire Department units responded and suppressed the house fire.  A deceased male white body was located in the living room immediately inside the front door.

In sports news, on Saturday, January 20 and Sunday, January 21, the CNA building in Chicago had its windows lit on all four sides to show the global insurer’s support for the Chicago Bears. The east and west windows read “GO BEARS” while the north and south windows featured a bear’s head.

The Park Forest Running and Pancake Club held it’s annual Midwinter Cruise Sunday on the streets surrounding Forest Trail Middle School.  218 runners finished the race, some wearing shorts on a day when the temperature was in the low 20s at gun time and 2 inches of snow covered village streets. 

Park Forest police issued a press release early Wednesday, January 24.  According to the release, on that date at 2:26 a.m., Park Forest Police Officers responded to a call of a man shot at 51A Hemlock.  The 27 year old male occupant of that address, James Bray, had been shot several times when he responded to knocks at his front door, according to the release. Park Forest Police Chief Tom Fleming issued a press release on January 29 announcing the arrest of a suspect in connection with Bray’s murder.  The realease stated that on Sunday, January 28th, 2007 the Cook County State’s Attorney charged 20 year-old Andrew Austin of 50 Sauk Trail, Park Forest with the murder of James Bray. 

January also saw the launch of campaign season in Park Forest as candidates filed petitions. For the first time ever, three board seats were open at the same time along with the Mayor’s seat.

Friday, January 26, marked the beginning of the newest exhibit at Tall Grass Arts Association, “Pop Art: Editions".

Park Forest FOCUS announced in early February the availability of applications for the Robert Furnace Memorial Scholarship.  Two $500 scholarships were awarded in the spring to high school seniors who live in Park Forest.  Furnace was a founding member of Park Forest FOCUS, along with his widow, Dorothy E. Furnace, who still resides in Park Forest.

The Committee for Non-Partisan Local Government in Park Forest announced in February dates for six candidates’ forums for those running for the office of Village President (Mayor), Village Trustee, and Library Trustee. 

Park Forest passed a sweeping non-smoking ordinance in February. The ordinance was written to grandfather Bixby’s and Tattler’s, making them exempt.

The February 12 regular meeting of the village board began with students from Forest Trail Middle School and members of the Park Forest Rotary Club’s Early Act Program, leading the board and those present in the Pledge of Allegiance.  At the conclusion, their moderator, Jenn Grossinger, made a brief presentation, saying that the Forest Trail Middle School Early Act Club along with the Park Forest Rotary were collecting G-rated DVDs to be donated to the Ronald McDonald Charities.

By the time our February 26 edition of eNews Park Forest rolled off the presses — or, went live over the Internet — the Committee for Non-Partisan Local Government in Park Forest had held three candidates’ forums for those running for the office of Village President (Mayor), Village Trustee, and Library Trustee.  The last, held February 25 in Park Forest Village Hall, was sponsored by the Far South Suburban NAACP.  


eNews Park Forest also welcomed student reporter Ryan Merriman, who initiated our coverage of local school boards, School District 163 Conducts Business – Almost. It was also in March that Park Forest took up discussion of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and formally entered the global warming debate.

Park Forest Village Attorney Mathias Delort was one of 31 new associate judges, selected in a vote of Cook County Circuit Court judges.  The names were released March 5 by Cynthia Y. Cobbs, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.

Marian Catholic hosted a "Marian Madness" NCAA Party on March 31, and the Park Forest Running and Pancake Club formally began working with the Village of Park Forest to save the Scenic 10. Mayor John Ostenburg issued a public statement dispelling rumors that the race had been canceled.

Elections in Park Forest took a strange turn when Paul Jasinevicius, candidate for Village President in Park Forest, was warned in late March to stop circulating a campaign brochure that allegedly used copyrighted images. The images were originally created for literature used in Commissioner Brendan Houlihan’s successful bid for a seat on the Cook County Board of Review. Lloyd Betourney of the Public Response Group, the public relations firm that created the pieces for Houlihan, confirmed that he spoke with Jasinevicius, Monday, March 26, "I spoke with Paul yesterday when we were made aware of it.  I told him it’s copywritten [sic] material, and he would not be able to use it without permission.  It was a very simple and short discussion. He thought because he received it in the mail it was public domain.  Not at all.  It’s all work product and protected." One of the pieces also featured an image of Mayor John Ostenburg placed in a Nazi uniform.


That race became even more contentious when, according to a story posted Friday, April 13, 2007, Jasinevicius went to the Park Forest Police Station and related that he posted campaign signs with the permission of the owners of a business at 26th St. and Western Ave. According to the report, Jasinevicius stated that the signs at both the addresses were removed. And at 1:30 a.m. on April 8, Easter morning, an officer on patrol in the parking lot of Family Video on Sauk Trail reported seeing Jasinevicius removing several damaged Ostenburg political campaign signs from the rear of a pick up truck and placing them in the grass area along the Sauk Trail and Blackhawk Dr., side of the Marathon Gas Station.

Ostenburg advised at the time that he did not want to sign a complaint for the damage to his signs.

Helen Bachelder-Peele, along with several members of the Park Forest Senior Commission, delivered the commission’s annual report to the Park Forest Village Board in April.

Park Forest Police Chief Tom Fleming issued a press release on April 14 in reference to the alleged kidnapping of a 24 year old victim from Tamarack St.  Two men have been charged in the case.

The votes were finally tallied for the April 17 election. John Ostenburg was elected to a third term as Village President in Park Forest. While challenger Paul Jasinevicius won the Will County section of Park Forest by 58 votes, Ostenburg’s 60.17% of the over-all vote put him well in front of  Jasinevicius’ 39.83%. 

With all 100% of the precincts counted in Cook County and 100% of the precincts counted in Will County, Mae Brandon captured 22.44% of the over-all vote total, Gary Kopycinski took 22.40%, and Georgia O’Neill won third with 18.15%.  Incumbent Cynthia Reed fell behind O’Neill with 15.29% of the overall vote, with Katie Armstrong and Jon Vanderbilt earning 11.61% and 10.10% of the vote respectively.

The Park Forest Historical Society held its annual Hall of Fame awards ceromony Sunday, April 15, at Freedom Hall, honoring seven people for their contributions to Park Forest. Newly inducted members include Mary McCall, Jane Nicoll (Stover), Rev. Daniel O’Sullivan, Anna T. Saul, James D. Saul, George C. Townsend, and Theresa (Terry) Townsend. The president of the Historical Society Boards/Awards Committee, Theresa Goodrich, served as master of ceremonies.


May saw the walls come tumbling down, as the wrecking ball hit the old water plant. Two long-time Park Forest businesses also received news they had to relocate: Tower Cleaners and Faso Pizza. Tower Cleaners did relocate to DownTown Park Forest. Faso Pizza found the cost of moving prohibitive, and moved out of the Village for now.

The Knights of Columbus honored all police officers and firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty with a Blue Mass on May 19. The Mass was held at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church in Park Forest.

Before adjourning sine die and reorganizing, the Village Board concluded old business by dropping its appeal to the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board (PTAB) for the Ash Street Cooperative.

Park Forest Mayor John A. Ostenburg laid out plans in May for the Village of Park Forest to engage in a comprehensive, Village-wide campaign to lobby for a change in the way schools are funded in Illinois and for property tax reform. The announcement was made as part of his comments upon being sworn in for a third four-year term as Park Forest mayor. Also sworn in for four-year terms were Trustees Mae Brandon, Gary Kopycinski, and Georgia O’Neill.

On a sad note for one organization, Park Forest Historical Society President Therese Goodrich has in May the closing of the 1950s Park Forest House Museum at 395-397 Forest Blvd in Park Forest.

School Board 163 held a special session on Monday, May 14 to swear in new board members. Virginia Ford, Cheryl Franklin and Walter Mosby each won 4 year terms. Melvin Pumphrey and Paul Jasinevicius won two year terms.

Seattle Sutton, creator of the weight loss program “Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating”, met with fans in May at the Illinois Theater Center, 371 Artist Walk in Park Forest for a “motivational conversation.”

The Park Forest Fire Department and departments from surrounding areas including University Park, South Chicago Heights, Richton Park, and Beecher extinguished a garbage fire in the transfer station of Star Disposal on South Street.


eNews Park Forest honored Veterans Day by featuring U.S.Army Sgt. Daniel Casara, 32, of University Park.  Casara’s mother, Elaine Casara Patterson, resides in Park Forest. Park Forest honored veterans with a special ceremony.

And some in Park Forest were eating cicadas.

Actors rehearse on stage in the Village Green on a night in June for weekend performances of William Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing. The same issue of eNewsPF also noted some residents concerns that the start-up of the new water plant was not without its cloudy moments. The Village Board in June began to consider a recommendation from the Plan Commission and Village staff regarding a preferred developer for the Hidden Meadows development, site of the former Hidden Meadows Golf Course.

Park Forest Baseball announced its playoff schedule in June, and Village staff honored one of their own with a luncheon in honor of retiring Director of Community Relations Barbara Moore. The gathering provided staff members the opportunity to bid Barbara farewell. That same month, Public Information Officer Jerry Shnay announced his retirement after nearly a decade of working for the village. The Park Forest Fire Department battled a blaze on Algonquin Street that gutted a house.

On Saturday, June 30th The Rain Garden Network helped install a Rain Garden at the Tennis and Health Club with various volunteers. Members of the Park Forest Environment also participated in the installation.

The League of Women Voters of the Park Forest Area was honored to co-host the state convention of the League of Women Voters of Illinois at the Holiday Inn in Matteson. The convention was held Friday, June 22 and concluded Sunday, June 24. Delegates from all over the state met to learn about Illinois state government, adopt policy positions, and plan the future direction of the state organization.


Rain was not able to stop the annual Park Forest 4th of July Parade. Despite downpours of rain before and after the event, the parade went on uninterrupted starting around 6 p.m., marching on the streets around Central Park. Floats and participants included clubs and organizations, little league baseball teams, and village officials. The parade also featured the mayor and village trustees riding in an old fashioned trolley.

Main Street Nights returned to the Village Green in July. Little Nashville performed the Hokey Pokey on July 11. Police also nabbed four suspects and charged them with criminal damage to property after several reports of damage to vehicles from a B.B. Gun. Damage included approximately four car windows shattered in Park Forest in addition to car dents, according to the report.

Superintendent Joyce Carmine of School District 163 informed the board and public at a July 23 meeting that all the schools in District 163 made the Adequate Yearly Progress (or more commonly referred to as the AYP) for the 2006 school year. The AYP is a statewide accountability system mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Park Forest Running & Pancake Club member Boonsom Hartman in the home stretch of her 150th marathon last in June. Our profile article on Ms. Hartman appeared in July.

Update Hartman completed Marathon #160 on December 1, 2007.  The race was in Baton Rouge Beach, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She finished 3rd in her age group.


The Park Forest Health Department prepared to move to its new home in Village Hall in August. In other village news in August, representatives from the Village government, local businesses, organizations and churches officially welcomed new residents to Park Forest August 8, before the summer’s last Main Street Nights event.

Jakia Brown of Park Forest was selected to participate in Nationals’ 2007 Miss Pre-Teen Chicago pageant competition that took place on August 26, 2007.

eNews Park Forest interviewed Glenn Benjamin in August on his road to health. Benjamin lost over 100 pounds preparing to run his first Marathon.

The Park Forest Police Department issued a press release in August regarding the arrest of a father and son charged in connection with a July kidnapping in Park Forest. Ricky Walker, 48, and his son, Samual Jackson, 25, of Harvey, were arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated vehicular hijacking, and armed robbery. The alleged offense occurred in Park Forest on July 22, 2007.


The Field Crest Cultural Enrichment Program held a ribbon cutting ceremony in August for their new location at 201 Main St., Park Forest. Mayor John Ostenburg and owner Donna Davenport cut the red ribbon across the doorway.

And the storms hit. Trees fell on Ash Street and thick branches snapped like twigs on Lakewood during August storms. Band members at Marian Catholic reported seeing a funnel cloud and lightening strike the parking lot on Joe Orr Rd. as they fled an outdoor rehearsal for the safety of the school building. After the second wave struck, many Park Foresters were without power, and traffic lights were out on Western Ave.

Elaine P Maimon, the new president of Governors State University, was dressed in black and white to symbolize diversity when she addressed the crowd at the League of Women Voters potluck dinner on a Wednesday night in August at the home of long time member Marge Friedman-Scherr.

Firefighter Dennis Kennedy officially retired from the Park Forest Fire Department, and around 200 colleagues, staff members, friends and family celebrated with him at Scrementi’s Contempo in South Chicago Heights. Surrounded by well-wishers, Kennedy received numerous gifts, some serious, and some, well, not so serious at all.

In August, we sat down with Park Forest’s new Community Relations Coordinator, Crescent Muhammad. Muhammad said she enjoys the spirit of the Village, “I like Park Forest.  I moved to Park Forest for accessibility.  My family is in Matteson.  I wanted to be close to them, but I wanted to be able to get to where I need to.  I moved in just before the grocery store closed.  So, I had everything within walking distance: a movie theater, the doctor’s office, the library, the pool, which is ideal for me.  I spent about 6 years in New Mexico [in school], and it was just about the same.  Everything was in walking distance.”


The Health Department officially made the move to its new location in Village Hall in September. Staff members transported boxes and equipment to rooms that were no more than an unfinished basement several weeks ago.

Participants and visitors to the Tall Grass Arts Association 52nd Art Fair filled the streets of downtown Park Forest in September. The fair enjoyed two days of perfect weather, and many visited the food vendors on Cunningham Drive.

Forty-three people were in attendance on Sunday September 9 at 2:30 p.m. at Village Hall, for the Park Forest Historical Society’s annual meeting and for a program on the importance of Park Forest ‘s architecture and design of the village.

Police executed a search warrant at a residence on Miami St. early Saturday morning on September 15 which resulted in the arrest of one individual and the seizure of drugs and cash.

The Kiwanis Club held its 56th annual Pancake Day.  The weather was perfect, and volunteers were hard at work at the Pankatron and throughout the great tent feeding everyone who showed up.  Several volunteers, and some of those in attendance, were kind enough to comment on what Pancake Day means to them.


eNews Park Forest interviewed Lance Corporal Brian Wiley in October. Wiley served two tours in Iraq. At 21 years of age, he’s seen more pain and violence than most see in a lifetime, and said he was prepared to serve again.

The Park Forest Police Department announced on October 12 the arrest of two 14 year old juveniles in connection with the robbery of an 80 year old disabled senior citizen that occurred on September 24th, 2007 at 4:40 p.m. at 101 Main St. Park Forest, a senior assisted living facility. The victim, an 80 year old male who uses a walker, was allegedly attacked by two youths who pulled his walker from him and allegedly pushed him to the ground, breaking his hip.

Members of the Park Forest Running and Pancake club used their email list and online forum to vent and share stories from this year’s Chicago Marathon, which many runners dubbed, "The Chicago Inferno." No club members were hospitalized, but one finisher was lightheaded and received and IV on site. Club members also staff the 25-mile water stop, and it was evident early on that this Marathon sported an extra-thirsty clientele.

eNews Park Forest Publisher Gary Kopycinski was accepted in October for membership in the Inland Press Association. Kopycinski learned of the unanimous decision of the Inland Board of Directors while attending an opening reception for the organization’s 122nd Annual Meeting in Chicago Sunday.

Park Forest Police Detectives investigated the theft of over $34,000 in fire safety technology equipment stolen from one of the fire education trailers stored in a building in the Downtown area.

eNews Park Forest began its coverage of often tumultuous meetings of the Prairie State College board in October, PSC Student Govt. President Blasts Board Chair Mark Fazzini.

Over 500 people turned out to the 21st Annual Safe Trick or Treat and Costume Contest in Downtown Park Forest on Wednesday, October 31st.  Parents and kids alike enjoyed plenty of candy, great company and great costumes that included the likes of Snow White, Darth Vader and numerous other imaginative characters.


Tower Cleaners celebrated the Grand Opening of its new location in Downtown Park Forest in November. The dry cleaning business had been located in one of buildings in the 200 block of Blackhawk until they were informed in May that they would have to move or pay taxes in addition to rent they already paid.

Dr. Blondean Y. Davis, Superintendent of Matteson Elementary School District 162 was been named the 2008 Illinois Superintendent of the Year. The award, sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Administrators, and was presented on November 17.

Village officials held a dedication for the new Water Supply and Treatment Plant on Saturday, November 3. Staff members from the water plant and engineers from Baxter & Woodman were available throughout the afternoon to take residents on tours of the facility, which is now fully operational.

One resident learned in November that it’s not wise to try to outrun a police dog.

The Village of Park Forest honored local men and women who currently serve or have served in the armed forces. The ceremony was held on Tuesday, November 13.

Over 100 residents braved the aftermath of the season’s first ice storm to gather on frozen sidewalks and crisp frozen lawns for this year’s Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.

The Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery exhibit “Reflections,” featuring nearly thirty watercolors by Pat Coffman Huss, opened on Friday, November 30 with a reception in the Tall Grass Gallery from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. It will run through January 12, 2008.


The Park Forest Historical Society opened its 1950s House Museum in a new location.

Detective James Varga was named Park Forest Police Department’s Officer of the Year, and Christopher Apt, a 19 year member of the Park Forest Fire Department, was awarded Firefighter of the Year.

Dr. Paul McCarthy resigned in December as President of Prairie State College. He accepted a position as President of El Centro College, Dallas, TX, part of the Dallas County Community College District.  Dr. McCarthy’s resignation is effective February 1.  He begins his new position February 4 at El Centro College.

And that caps off 2007. Enjoy revisiting the highs and the lows.

We wish all of our readers a bright, Happy New Year.