First Row: Wilma Brenne, Raymond Janota, John North.  Back Row: Leonard Robinson, George Maeyama, Sam Walker.



Original Park Forest pioneers, Lynn and Wilma Brenne raised six children while contributing time and energies to the development of the village's heart and structure. His children thought that all fathers spent every weekday night at village hall and weekends talking with other residents about donations for an Aqua Center or surveying intersections for traffic controls! In addition to working as an executive of United Airlines, Lynn dedicated himself to the community, Rich Township, and Cook and Will Counties; his influence was also felt in the state of Illinois.

Lynn was a five-term village trustee, chairman of the Plan Commission, director of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the Regional Association of South Cook-Will County Municipalities, regional affairs officer for the Transportation Authority, and president of the Area Agency on Aging. He organized the first village Community Chest and Library District, initiated Rich Township Senior Wheels while serving in the assessor' s office, served on the planning board for the community college (now Prairie State), and was elected state representative to the 77th General Assembly. He died in 1993.


Wilma's contributions to the community she has loved for 50 years were made "in the trenches." In spite of all home and family obligations, which she loved, there was always time for volunteer work over the years: Grand Prairie Services' and Elegant Elephant's thrift shops, the Art Center, Women's Club, League of Women Voters, Rich Township Pantry and its Nutrition Center, Thorn Creek Nature Center, and as an election judge since 1970.

Founding members of Trinity Lutheran Church, Wilma and Lynn helped sponsor a Boy Scout troop there; she continues as a member of two Circle groups. She taught pre-schoolers for seven years at the Pied Piper Nursery School and was a mental health technician at Elisabeth Ludeman Center for 17 years. Working individually with its residents and often as the only employee on holidays, Wilma brought humanity and community to this facility. It is obvious to see why her smiling "yes" when asked to serve, upbeat attitude in the face of health problems, and readiness with a quick joke for all she meets continue to add to the Brenne legacy of caring.


The first teacher hired for brand new Rich Township High School in April 1952, Ray Janota spent 36 years "being there" for students in and out of the classroom. He and Deloris moved to Park Forest in September of that year and raised their three children here. Ray's gentle, interested, non-judgmental demeanor lent itself to mentoring as well as making science come alive for thousands of young people. He helped select the school colors of green and gold, the school logo, and the athletic team name: Rockets. Ray also developed one of the first advanced biology courses in the state.

A science consultant to teachers in surrounding grade school districts, he taught nature studies for many summers in local forest preserves. Ray organized the Key Club at the high school, he also created and supervised the first drug rehabilitation program for the school and village. As a scientist concerned with ecology, he was chairman of the Environmental Commission for years. Upon retirement, Ray was an adjunct professor at both Governors State and Moraine Valley.


The heart of Park Forest's shopping center for many years was a bookstore named Maeyamas -- a personal, friendly, "station for information" about what was happening in the village. George and Jo moved to Park Forest in 1949 (one of the few communities to rent to Asian-Americans at that time) and relocated the family jewelry business to the plaza in 1955. Finally the store evolved into what George described as "a personal triumph of a reader...owning a book store!" He brought authors like Mike Royko, Studs Terkel and others to Park Forest for book signing events.

Raising two children, working in the book store, and joining George in tutoring students in Park Forest and Dixmoor did not stop Jo from her other interests: playing the recorder with many groups at local events, becoming an ESL Literacy volunteer, working as a Braille transcriber with Lighthouse for the Blind, and supporting the Unitarian Church. When they retired, both George and Jo became involved with the Friends of the Park Forest Library; she was a past president of the group. The Maeyamas moved to Tucson, AZ, in 1994, where Jo died in 1997.


John and Dorothy North and their two children moved to Park Forest in 1951 and he immediately became involved in church and community life. Director of' the Combined Appeal, active in the Metropolitan Crusade of Mercy and the United Settlement Appeal, John was the first of 48 Park Foresters to be named "Distinguishcd Citizen of the Month." As personnel trainer for Swift & Company, his skills earned him a commendation from the governor of Hawaii and a "John North Day" in Honolulu.

Kiwanis member with the longest service, John has been president, chairman of several of the club's committees and Pancake Day chairman several times. He earned the highest honor Kiwanis bestows: the George F. Hixson Award for his dedication to making the world and his community a better place for all. John played an important role in the establishment and religious life of the four United Protestant churches. He suggested the name "Faith" for the first of these interdenominational churches and served in leadership capacities for over 40 years there. He received Faith's Lifetime Achievement Award.

John was also a charter member of the Park Forest Historical Society.


A staunch advocate of successful integration, Len felt that the best way to achieve this goal when he and Yvonne moved their family to Park Forest in 1963 was to become involved in organizations and community groups. As one of the original coaches of Quad City Flag Football, Len was instrumental in assuring that all boys, on all teams, were able to play regardless of skill or size. His reward was parental thanks for their sons' experiences. Father of five boys (two of whom died in tragic accidents), he also was a Cub Scout leader, and coached PF baseball and GSU-YMCA basketball teams.

Len became the first African American elected to the School District #227 Board of Education, served for 10 years as chair or co-chair of the Gavin Foundation's Golf Event, was executive board president of New Faith Baptist Church, was elected Rich Township Highway Commissioner and served on the Park Forest Plan Commission, where he says he received deep insight into the inner workings of a successful community. Len hasn't stopped contributing: he currently serves on the Community Development Corporation and the area United Way board.


A pioneer home owner in the village, Sam helped form the Park Forest Homesteader's Association to create a unified voice in dealing with American Community Builders. He negotiated with ACB for larger capacity storm drains and educated homeowners on tax consequences of various proposals. Parents of three daughters, Sam and Rita encouraged the introduction of structured youth activities for young men and women in Park Forest -- specifically Girl and Boy Scout programs. He founded troops, became an Explorer Post advisor, and held area and regional Scouting administrative leadership roles.

An early member of the Park Forest Chamber of Commerce, Health Council and Health Commission, Sam has been president of Rotary Club, secretary of the school board in District #163, commander of PF's Naval Reserve Company, and has garnered many community service awards in several different areas. Active in his church also, Sam continues to serve the village on the 50th anniversary committee, #163 advisory council to the superintendent, and advisor to the Health Department.