A few days ago, River Forest residents received in the mail the Summer 2007 program brochure from the park district. For the first time since the district started its own programming, Thomas Grundin’s name was not on the masthead as the executive director. For many of us in the village, it will feel odd, like a little bit of our past and at least some of our future has been quietly taken away.

Tom Grundin has been synonymous with the River Forest Park District, having started when there was little to do other than mow the grass and make sure all those “gosh darn” kids didn’t ruin the place. Those were truly days we lived in Sleepy Hollow, as Tom liked to recall. To anyone who moved to River Forest after 1990, that might sound strange, but during his 24 years, Tom saw the park district grow from a few quiet parks and no recreational programming to where we are today, with over 30 different programs offered this spring and summer and nearly double the open space we had when Tom began.

In many ways, Tom made this happen. He channeled the energies of enthusiastic park board members with often unrealistic expectations so that they could focus on achievable goals to improve the programs and increase park space. For Tom, it was always the “art of the doable.”

With no indoor facilities to speak of and little open space to share, the burden always fell on Tom to meet with the other stakeholders, both public and private, to find ways that River Forest’s growing youth recreational needs could be at least addressed, if not always satisfied. Breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, evening meetings of other boards and countless park planning meetings–all things Tom did willingly and gladly to make River Forest a better place to raise young children and watch your grandchildren grow up.

Words cannot express how grateful we, as board members, were to have Tom with us at every turn, ready to face some difficult task or make the hard choices caused by our meager staff and shoestring budget. But, like always, he left quietly without waiting to hear our thanks and the praise we all had for him and his hard work.

It may be too late for this year, but I hope the River Forest Service Club selects him as the Grand Marshall of next year’s Memorial Day Parade. Maybe then we can give him the sendoff he deserves.

In the meantime, thanks for making the park district what it has been able to become and for making my six years on the board both memorable and rewarding.

Pat Deady
Former River Forest parks commissioner

Join the discussion on social media!