River Forest
Back in September of last year, when Laurel McMahon sat down for the first time with members of the new River Forest 125th Anniversary Committee, October 24, 2005 seemed a long way off?#34;with a lot to do between then and now. But time really does fly when you’re having fun?#34;and working hard.

Last Sunday, McMahon’s group welcomed 525 people to the final major event of the 125th celebration, a historical tombstone tour of notable founding River Foresters at Forest Home Cemetery. And five days from now, it will be McMahon and members of her committee who will be the guests of honor at a special village board meeting. That meeting falls on the actual anniversary of the village’s incorporation 125 years ago.

While the finishing touches for the village board’s 125th party haven’t been decided yet, Village President Frank Paris said he hopes they have an overflow in village hall’s Community Room. The board plans to have cake and other treats starting at 7 p.m. The board also will be offering heartfelt congratulations to the two dozen people who have spent hundreds of hours over the past 13-plus months brainstorming, poring over an endless stream of lists and suggestions and prioritizing to craft the village’s seven-month-long celebration.

Paris praised the dedicated work of the committee as a whole, and of McMahon in particular, last week. As the president of both a village and a bank, Paris is more comfortable with the deliberate prose of those arenas. He bemoaned his oratorical shortcomings last week as he pondered a reporter’s question about McMahon’s service over the past year.

“I wish I had a more eloquent manner of speaking,” he said. “It’s hard to compliment her enough on such a nice job.”

Paris said he chose McMahon last September for the uncommon mix of attributes that he believed she would bring to the process.

“I know Laurel has a great interest in history,” he said. “I also know her to be well organized and a good manager. Dealing with 25 people requires a good manager.”

For her part, McMahon said she was “delighted” with how everything turned out over the past seven months. “It’s a very good feeling,” she said. “I think everything we had on our calendar went off well.”

A key part of that feeling of success, she said, was the sense of community the committee was able to foster.

“It’s been a great opportunity to come together as a community, and to showcase all four corners of the village,” she said.

The head of one major institution, the River Forest Public Library, expressed solid satisfaction with the fruits of the committee’s labors.

“We set out to assure that all aspects of the village were celebrated, and I think we were successful,” said Dawn Bussey, library director and a committee member, said Monday. “I’ve been very pleased with the attendance of events we’ve hosted at the library,” she added, singling out a display of River Forest authors that was suggested by the 125th Committee.

“We had a reception with some of those authors,” Bussey added. “It was very well received.”

Trustee and former fire chief Russ Nummer called the seven months of celebration “a resounding success,” and said McMahon was the “driving force” of a dedicated group of people who did a superb job addressing the interests of different River Forest groups. Those activities, he said, included everything from parades to a formal dinner at Dominican University “and everything in between.”

Park District Commissioner Holly Hirst said that McMahon’s biggest accomplishment was organizing and directing two dozen people.

“We’re lucky she brought her energy and vision to the project,” she said.

River Forest Township Assessor Mary “Rogue” Weiland, who helped organize the formal dinner celebration at Dominican, praised McMahon’s organization.

“She was fantastic,” said Weiland. “We’d have a meeting on Monday, and she’d have the minutes [written up] on Wednesday.”

McMahon returned the compliments Monday, saying that while she’s happy to be able to lay down the burden she assumed last year, she regrets ending her association with such a talented group of dedicated residents.

125th Anniversary Committee members

Laurel McMahon, chairwoman, Brian Becker, Cynthia Belle, Christine Bollettino, Dawn Bussey, Dick Chappell, Karen Dale, Judy Das Gupta, Jim Eggert, Julia Faust, Jennifer GoodSmith, Tom Grundin, John Hagensick, Holly Hirst, Char Hoffman, JoAnne Kennelly, Marcy Lantero-White, Dean Lueking, Jane McCole, Victor Mirelman, Russ Nummer, Jeff Sophian, W. Sean Toohey, Mary “Rogue” Weiland, David Worth

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