By DIANE TURNER-HURNS
Journal & Topics Reporter
In a quiet corner of the expansive Lange Park grounds in Rosemont on North Scott Street sits a new statue of two children smiling on a bench. They are sitting under a tree watching over a plaque with names of young Rosemont residents who have passed away.
The area is known as the “Tree of Life.”
When one of her son’s good friends, James Bolas, died in a motorcycle accident, Marlene Chihoski began to wonder what Rosemont had in place to remember children the community had lost.
“We had lost so many and it was very sad. There really wasn’t anything. So in early 1996 a couple of friends and I met over coffee and came up with an idea. We started the Rosemont Tree of Life Committee,” Chihoski related.
Chihoski and friends Christine Haubner and Rosalie Lennstrom decided, through the committee, that they would develop a plaque with the names of Rosemont youth from newborns to age 29 who have died. Their mission was to find a location where the public could see and remember those who have passed.
“With the help of the Rosemont Park Dist. and the Krimson Valley Landscaping company we found a spot on the grounds of Lange Park that was perfect,” Chihoski said.
“Krimson planted a tree for us and developed the garden landscaping around it,” explained Mrs. Chihoski. “We added a large rock and the plaque to the Tree of Life area. It was dedicated on July 14, 1996.”
Last July the statue was added. Known as the “companions”, the statue of a young girl and boy sitting on a bench smiling was created by the Randolph Rose Collection. It cost about $3,000, Chihoski said.
“Each summer at the annual Rosemont Voters League picnic at noon the Our Lady of Hope pastor blesses the Tree of Life,” Chihoski said. “We then unveil a new plaque at that time if any names have been added.
“The good news is no new names were added this year,” Chihoski said. The Tree of Life is blessed every year whether new names are added or not.
To raise funds for the Tree of Life, in the beginning Chihoski, Haubner and Lennstrom went house-to-house requesting donations.
“The next year we sold candy. We don’t sell candy anymore,” she said.
The park district helps the committee by allowing it to utilize park mailings and other resources to help raise funds.
“We usually send a letter with a park district mailing to request funding. But not too often,” Chihoski said.
A few years ago the committee added a bench costing $1,300 and each plaque, ordered when a new name is added, costs about $1,000.
“People have been generous with donations,” Chihoski said. “We keep a fund with the park so we can add to it if we need anything at the site.”
Chihoski said people are invited to visit the site, add flowers in the existing flower cups, and sit on the bench and enjoy the park.
“Our key goal is to help local residents remember the young ones who have died,” Chihoski said. “I believe it greatly helps the parents and friends, especially with the grieving process. It is in memory of our lost children.”
Chihoski has four children, Phil, Robert, Michael and Laura.
If interested in helping, Chihoski said people can donate funds by writing a check for the Rosemont Park Dist./Tree of Life Committee and sending it to Rosemont Park Dist., 6140 N. Scott St., Rosemont, IL 60018. Or, she said, people can call her directly at 847-826-0377 if they’d like to help or for more information.
“As long as I’m alive, I’ll keep working to keep up the Tree of Life,” Chihoski said. “It’s important to remember.”