From Left to Right: Betty McDonnell, Jack Star, William Hamby (Standing), Florence Oliver & Gretchen Falk


One of the youngest full professors at Yale University and chair-man of the architecture department, Richard Bennett knew in 1946
that new towns for returning veterans had to be built. Fortunately, so did Jerry Loeb] and Norman Schlossman, Chicago architects who talked Mr. Bennett into coming to the Midwest for three months to bounce around some ideas for one of these new towns.
Thirty-eight years later, his design work for the village of Park Forest as well as the Old Orchard and Oak Brook Shopping Centers, Chicago Police Headquarters and Weiss Memorial Hospital won him international recognition and respect. His design work has been called `basically humanistic' because Loeb], Schlossman and Bennett prided themselves on their ability to "join forces with the sociologist, physician and scientist to discover the physical and psychological needs of the people ... to evolve new forms based on use." Mr. Bennett used the land itself to dictate an `organic kind of growth;' trees and nature flowed into the rolling, circular placement of buildings throughout the village. His 'functional, comfortable and beautiful' work was widely imitated. He and his wife Susan retired to Cambridge, MA, where he died in 1996.


Gretchen and Walter Falk moved to Park Forest in 1972 with their two children, and she immediately became involved in the League of Women Voters' parks study committee. As chair from 1973 to 1994, Gretchen and her committee helped persuade the Village Board to spend $500,000 of Federal revenue sharing funds to redevelop the parks. She served on the Recreation and Parks Board for nine years, two as chair, where her persistence spearheaded a delightful trans-formation from practically bare areas containing only ball fields and old equipment to landscaped parks with new trees, paths, benches and innovative playground equipment. Central Park's development was particularly important. In 1978, the Illinois Park and Recreation Association presented the local League a special Community Service Award for a "significant contribution to parks, recreation, leisure." Gretchen served as head of the reference department of the Park Forest Public Library from 1977 to 1998, during which time it was regarded as one of the best in the southern suburbs. During her tenure, a successful community-wide fund raiser helped the PFPL install a local area network, which provided access to computer-based reference sources. The Falks are still involved in village activities.


Chief of Police Bill Hamby made a significant contribution to the peaceful integration of Park Forest in the 1960's. Working with the Human Relations Commission, Chief Hamby made sure that the protection of law enforcement was provided to all particpants in the process. He met personally with new minority arrivals to assure them of their safety and he responded quickly with firm warnings to disperse potential problems. His positive example and leadership earned him a "Good Egg" award in 1974. A member of the village bicentennial commission in 1975-76, he helped plan, organize and coordinate the special events for the Fourth of July celebration. Bill, Dolores and Billy Hamby moved to Park Forest when Bill became a police officer in 1952. He was promoted through the ranks to become chief, a position he held from 1962 to 1980. In 1964, Chicago's American printed the 10 best and 10 worst police departments in suburban Cook County. The Park Forest Police Department and Chief Hamby were both among the top ten. He served as president of the Chiefs of Police Associations in both Cook and Will Counties. Bill and Dolores retired to Tucson, AZ, and they now live in Castle Rock, CO. Son Billy has kept the law enforcement legacy alive; he is a secret service agent.


Oscar Johnson was called the `Green Thumb Man;' wherever he went, beautiful things bloomed. When Oscar was hired as superintendent of landscaping for the new village in 1948, he and his wife Anne moved into the unfinished rentals during the winter. Spring thaws exacerbated problems with unpaved streets and courtyards, water backups in basements, off-grade sidewalks and backfilling woes. But Oscar and his crew went to work planting trees, shrubs and grass to complement native vegetation already here. He became American Community Builders' chief landscaper in 1950 to plan for the homes under construction and the shopping center, where he found the right tree, bush and plant for each location. Snow removal, pruning, equipment overhaul and plant maintenance of the rental areas, commercial locations and new construction were also part of his job. An original member of the Park Forest Kiwanis Club and the Beautification and Conservation Commission, Oscar loved his work and was proud of his craft. He continued to share his horticultural expertise at the Knight Templar Home in Paxton, IL, when ill health forced him to move there in 1964. Oscar died in 1970; Anne lives in an Eastern Star home in Macon, IL.


The McDonnell family moved to the village in 1961; they joined St. Irenaeus church with its action-oriented programs. She and Tom
raised their three children here. But, it was in 1966 that Betty began teaching at the parent-founded and funded Park Forest Co-op Nursery School, a position she held for the next 34 years. Her knowledge of. concern and compassion for three- and four-year olds and their parents helped over 800 familes get a wonderful start into the world of education. In 1978, Betty helped plan a licensed child care facility for Governors State University and served on the Child Care Advisory Board for seven years. She was awarded a scholarship for community service and completed a Masters degree at GSU. When it was decided that the era of the parent-cooperative school was over, Betty facilitated the orderly transfer of the school, in total, to nearby St. Mary School in 2000. This continued "the original founders' plan for the development of the whole child in a safe, caring atmosphere, in a building specific to the needs of the young child, in a natural outdoor setting conducive to learning." Betty remains an avid attender of garage sales; she is an antiquarian book collector, helping judge the value of books for the Park Forest Public Library.


Practically everyone in the village knows that if you want some-thing done, you ask Florence Oliver. She has been a `go-to' person ever since she and her late husband Warren moved to a house on Marquette in 1951, where they raised two daughters; she still lives there. Her membership in and leadership of the Park Forest Woman's Club has provided her with many community service opportunities, including raising funds for the Library and the kitchen in Freedom Hall. She has been the Salvation Army's Donut Day local coordinator for 47 years. A `newcomer' to the Park Forest Kiwanis Club, she was the second female asked to join. Co-chair of the village's 50th Anniversary Birthday Party, Florence was the Jaycees' Volunteer of the Year in 1998. She spends many a day at Faith United Protestant Church; she's the Mission Board chair, a grounds beautification planner and worker, `cookie brigade' coordinator, usher, wedding hostess and Women's Fellowship 50-year member. Working with Rhoda Adler since 1979 to "get those donors out" at the church blood drive program has been very important to Florence. One of the many reasons people 'go to' Florence is her kind demeanor; she smiles when she says "yes!"


Jack and Dorothy Star arrived in Park Forest in November 1948 and lived here for nearly half a century before moving back to Chicago. He was one of several hundred newspaper and magazine writers who, over the years, made their home in the village and helped shape America's perception of this thriving town. Jack wrote about Park Forest's birth pains for the Chicago Sun-Times as editor and writer, its early efforts to attain racial diversity for LOOK Magazine as senior editor for 20 years, for the Chicago Tribune Magazine as a contributing editor, and for North Shore Magazine as a columnist. He played a supporting role in the launching of the Park Forest Reporter; typical of his off-beat sense of humor, he wrote the head-line "Star Falls in Park Forest." When he took over the LOOK All-America City competition recognizing municipal achievements, he twice helped guide the village to first place honors. Jack also donated his photos to the Historical Society's archival collection. Meanwhile, Dorothy raised their five children (four daughters and a son), was a substitute teacher in School District #163, and later was a social worker in the Chicago Heights State Office of Rehabilitation. Typical of Dorothy, she often drove her blind clients to their work sites. A social activist, she was one of the "Park Forest Women for Peace" and helped organize such local self-help groups as TOPS. She volunteered to facilitate the primary reading program in School District #162 in exchange for the primary students teaching her to use a computer. Dorothy died in August 2000.