2009 Hall of Fame Inductees
A relative newcomer to Park Forest, Gary Kopycinski is recognized as a prime contributor to the village and to the wider community. Gary's commitment to Park Forest goes beyond the ordinary and encompasses service as current Village Trustee-a position he is "incredibly honored" to hold, serving as public spokesman for the Park Forest Running and Pancake Club, and being active in numerous civic and political organizations along the way. After moving to Park Forest in 2000, he became involved with Tall Grass Arts Association, Far South Suburban NAACP, League of Women Voters of the Park Forest Area, Park Forest FOCUS political organization and South Chicagoland Young Democrats, which he helped organize. "I still prefer the winding curved street of Park Forest to anywhere else in the Chicagoland area," he says with pride. In recent years he also launched "eNews Park Forest," an online newspaper reaching thousands of subscribers in the Park Forest area each week. The paper has become a primary source for news in Park Forest and beyond, and is a major contribution to communication in and about the community. Gary Kopycinski has been a teacher at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights for 19 years. He is a single father to adopted son, James.
Myrtle C. Martin
There don't seem to be enough hours in the day to encompass all of Mrytle's activities. As a 44-year resident of Park Forest, Myrtle C. Martin has established herself as a strong force for mediation, education and art appreciation. As Executive Director of the Community Educational Service Center, Myrtle Martin used her grant writing skills and her organizational ability in a successful effort to integrate Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 in the turbulent 1970s. What began as a request to complete an application for federal funds turned into a method for parents of school children from both communities to come together and discuss their fears, concerns and goals. One time chair of the Commission on Human Relations, Myrtle is also an active member of the League of Women Voters. She is a 15-year member of the Park Forest Mediation Task Force, a group of trained volunteers who mediate disputes between citizens in a rewarding experience, Myrtle says, gives her the opportunity to help others have "the peaceful experience I have had living in Park Forest." As a member of Tall Grass Arts Association Board of Directors, she has been vice-president, served as chairman of committees, recruited volunteers, been a weekly gallery "sitter," served on the Beaux Arts Ball Committee, and has served as "an all-around Girl Friday." Myrtle serves on the Park Forest Historical Society board, is a docent for the museum, and served on the Village's 50th Anniversary Committee.
Through his efforts for children, his church and his community, the late Marty O'Neill was a tireless volunteer. From coaching girls' softball to his caring church work, through his participation in the Park Forest Area Chamber of Commerce, O'Neill was a solid and consistent force for good in the community. He served as a mediator for St. Irenaeus Catholic Church called upon by Fr. Daniel O'Sullivan to solve conflicts among parishioners. Marty lead through fairness and patience to establish a peaceful atmosphere within the group. He was instrumental in helping an organization assisting alcoholics and their families locate in Park Forest. Fr. O'Sullivan supported Marty's nomination, calling him a "man of character." As an extraordinary volunteer in the Park Forest Area Chamber of Commerce, O'Neill gave his time, talents and strengths to enable the organization to prosper prior to its merger with the Matteson Area Chamber of Commerce. As a coach, he helped build character and served as a positive role model to his charges, being especially supportive to those who needed it most. He and wife Georgia O'Neill, now a Park Forest trustee, raised three children. O'Neill, a 35-year resident of Park Forest, died in 2005 after a three-year battle with cancer. Before his death, he received a Leadership Certificate from Barack Obama.
John R. Ray
Art knows no limits, and in his creative efforts throughout the years, John R. Ray has used his time and talents to expand the artistic horizons of the community. As a seven year member of Park Forest's Youth Commission, as a board member of both the Illinois Theatre Center and The Tall Grass Arts Association, and as an art teacher, he generously gave of his time and artistic talent. In his three years as a Theatre Center board member, he served as both advisor and active participant, contributing his skills to paint sets for productions and designing a mural for a major fund raising effort. A former art teacher in Homewood schools, with a passion for supporting art education for youth, he created an annual exhibit of junior high school artwork from south suburban schools displayed at the Tall Grass Art Gallery. John is a school docent for Illinois Philharmonic, and helped develop school tours for Tall Grass. A resident of Park Forest for 37 years, John's efforts in art education reached international scope when he used art work from Algonquin School students as gifts to children in orphanages and hospitals in Japan and China. Through his career, he has exhibited what he calls "a deep concern for our youth during what can be difficult years for them."
Induction Ceremony held
Sunday, April 19, 2009
400 Lakewood Blvd.