Elaine and her husband Jim came to Park Forest in November 1949 and almost immediately she began creating a fine arts community in the village. She was one of the founders of the Park Forest Playhouse in 1950; by the end of her career, she had acted in or directed over 35 plays for the Playhouse, Community Children's Theatre and Chicago Heights Drama Group. Once a concert pianist, Elaine taught piano in her home for 40 years. She helped organize the Park Forest Conservatory of Music and Dance, initiated "Picture Lady" art appreciation and music enrichment programs in the schools, and spearheaded the Beaux Arts Ball annual events. (Elaine's tribute to Art Hodes demonstrates her poetic gifts as well.) In the early years of the village, Jim and Elaine were instrumental in founding the Unitarian Church and later they began the Monthly Meeting of the Thorn Creek Religious Society of Friends. Elaine died in January 1991, shortly after the Garretsons had moved to Texas.


jgar95Jim and Elaine chose an American Community Builders' townhouse in ACB's downtown office, moved into it, raised four daughters and one son, and stayed there until they retired to Texas in 1990. An attorney, Jim served Park Forest in many capacities over thirty years: member of the Community Council, village clerk, village police magistrate (before whom all criminal cases were heard in the early days) for six years, two-term village trustee, and 20-year library board member. Jim was president of the Unitarian Church twice, each time during a difficult period in the church's history. One of Jim's fondest memories of his Park Forest days is the dinner he organized in honor of the 159th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The renowned pastor of the People's Church in Chicago, Dr. Preston Bradley, was the speaker, David Nelson read Emerson's poetry, and Art Hodes played piano. (Mr. Garretson died on August 5, 1999, in Annapolis, Maryland.) (James Garretson, left, with Magne Olson, right.)


ggoldWhen one thinks of preserving the beauty of our lands and resources, one immediately thinks of the contributions of Gertrude Gold. An early Park Forest settler, Gertrude became involved in many facets of village life, but none so important to her as her 30-year service on the Environment Conservation Commission. From Traffic Safety to the formation and continuation of the Beautification Awards for noteworthy, well-tended village homes, Gertrude has tirelessly worked to educate the public to cultivate and retain nature's gifts. Recycling, a solid waste plan, yard waste alternatives, and Earth Day clean-ups were all ECC and Gold programs. A long-time League of Women Voters member, Gertrude has worked on many study groups, including the update of the parks and recreation plan and the one of which she is most proud--the early comprehensive study of the Park Forest Schools. A widow with three grown children, Gertrude continues to be active also in Temple Both Sholom (which she helped found) and Friends of the Thorn Creek Woods. Warm weather finds her swimming at the Aqua Center and tending her beautiful English-style flower garden.


In his memoirs entitled Angles of Vision, Philip Klutznick wrote, "I was fortunate to secure the services of Tom McDade, who became my assistant-in-chief and jack-of-all executive skills". Among Tom's many hats during the development of Park Forest, he was in charge of all the rental units-, trying to keep tenants happy was not an easy task. He increased housing construction from 10 units a week to 10 units a day and also managed the water utility. After completing his work in Park Forest, Tom moved away. Upon his retirement, he returned in 1985 and renewed his interests in all phases of the village -- from the Historical Society to the library and more -- until his death in 1992. "You could take the man out of Park Forest, but not Park Forest out of the man", said his widow Mignon, who still lives in the village.


The recent death of Les Vande Berg left Park Forest bare of one of its most devoted and involved villagers. Chairman of the Rich High School Citizens Committee, Les accepted the first Park Forest All-America City award in 1953 on behalf of this committee's contribution to the community. A longtime member and officer of the Park Forest Lions Club, Les spearheaded the club's founding and sponsorship of Park Forest baseball. The Lions leveled, sodded and watered a baseball field and worked tirelessly to find coaches and umpires for this extremely successful endeavor. Although not a professional musician, Les was a violin major in college. His life-long love of music included teacher in the public schools and conducting church and high school choirs. For several years, Les worked with the Park Forest Orchestra, which grew professionally to become the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra. He served as board president, during which time the orchestra increased to 75 members. The IPO's chamber concert series began at Freedom Hall, and as it grew, Les formed an orchestra support group, which is now known as Friends of the IPO. His wife of 52 years, Mary Louise, still lives in Park Forest. (Les died on 11-30-94)



Some Hall of Fame Members from a photograph taken on March 17, 1996 Front Row: Alice Racher, Lois Coxworth, Marge Friedman, Barney Cunningham, Henry Dietch, Dr. Thomas Waldman (Son of Charles Waldman) Back Row: Ron McLeod, James Marzuki, Emanuel Racher, Dewey Helmick, Earl Wade.