Ever drive through a town while you’re on vacation and think, “I’d like to live a lifetime here”? Well, people do that every day when they visit Oak Park and River Forest. And that makes us thankful that we actually do get to live here and to work hard to make these villages ever better.

What else are we thankful for this Thanksgiving 2010?

For the refurbished and rededicated World War I memorial in Scoville Park: We are thankful for the shared memories of this hallowed space. From the soldiers who fought in that great war to the traumatized villagers who gathered there in the candlelight vigil following 9/11. This is the village’s soulful space. Now, thanks to a park district that values a sense of place, to volunteers who worked collaboratively, to the hundreds who gathered for its new launch, to the kids who still, and will always, climb it, Peace Triumphant is renewed for generations to come.

For the gradual elimination of Dryvit as a preferred building material in Oak Park: Madison Street, once the repository of ill-considered restoration, has already thrown off its shackles at Oak Park and Madison, at the old Village Players, and, soon, we pray, the Comcast building will be unclad.

For the new Walgreens on Madison: Saved a worthy façade, built an innovative green building. Once we railed against this lateral move of a business. Now we shop there. (And it makes the rest of the pre-fab pharmacies in town look just awful.)

For two new school superintendents — Roberts and Isoye — who are bringing vitality and energy, along with new thinking, to our schools.

For the Barrie Park neighborhood, which, now five years past the never-ending trauma of coal tar removal, feels again like just a neighborhood — a slightly nicer, slightly tighter neighborhood.

For Community Bank of Oak Park-River Forest, which is as true a friend and supporter of these villages as any business could be: Locally owned, the bank has ties to hundreds of local non-profits, is an engaged lender to local businesses, and is active in all civic matters. This is everything community banking can aspire to become. When Marty Noll, president of the bank, says of clients (even clients who have him in a bit of warm water with regulators), “These are good people, honest people of good character,” our plan is to stand with him.

For the Citizens Council at OPRF, which has grabbed hold of the issue of alcohol and drug abuse in the community with a ferocity that is overdue: Enough excuses. We’ve got a problem. Let’s do something to make it better.

For Roosevelt Road and its coming facelift: If there is a major thoroughfare that has gotten less love, we can’t think of it.

For the Park District of Oak Park and its master planning process for redoing parks: This multi-year process is a tutorial in good government. Step one: Suppress the egos.

For the retail success of Marion Street: Full occupancy in a tough time says good things. May the magic spread south on Marion Street and over to Oak Park Avenue as the re-do continues.

For elected officials, even the cranky ones, who put themselves forward: These are complex times. Every choice is a hard one. Too few of us say thanks.

For our readers — in print and online: It is our honor to write about such fascinating communities.

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