New Chicago Heights park a tribute to late Mayor Lopez
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org August 27, 2012 8:12PM
Chicago Heights Park District Supt. Frank Perez speaks Monday at a ceremony dedicating a new Chicago Heights park named after late Mayor Alex Lopez. The park is at Chicago Road and U.S. 30. | Casey Toner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 29, 2012 6:15AM
Late Chicago Heights Mayor Alex Lopez had two daughters, but many children wished he had been their father, Lopez’s own father said Monday.
“Why was that?” Jose Lopez said. “He showed love for them. He loved children.”
Jose Lopez made those comments while unveiling the new Alex Lopez Park in a ceremony at the park, Chicago Road and U.S. 30. He said the park is a fitting tribute to the city’s first Hispanic mayor, who died at age 42 two years ago Monday due to heart disease and diabetes.
“The people who knew Alex ... knew that no matter what they were going through, he could put a smile on their face,” Jose Lopez said.
The park features two playgrounds and an asphalt track.
City, school and health officials were among hundreds of people who showed up to the event. Several people wore T-shirts promoting the “Alex Lopez Ray of Light Foundation,” which awards scholarships to Hispanic individuals who pursue a college education.
Frank Perez, a close friend of Alex Lopez who succeeded him as Chicago Heights Park District superintendent, said the idea for the park came about nine months ago.
The gated park is located between the Chicago Heights Public Library and the Chicago Heights Park District Recreation Center, and directly across the street from St. James Hospital.
St. James Hospital president Seth Warren called the park a “beautiful sight for us to look out our windows and see.”
Prairie State College and St. James Hospital donated about $72,000 for the $240,000 project, which Prairie State College said was a way of saying thanks to Alex Lopez and honoring his memory.
Mayor David Gonzalez, a personal friend and political ally of the former mayor, started his speech by asking the crowd to give a round of applause to “one of the greatest human beings on the planet.”
“If you knew Alex like we did, you knew the kids always came first,” Gonzalez said. “How do you celebrate his life? The best way to celebrate his life is to build a park where the children can play.”
After the speeches, Lopez’s daughters, Victoria and Alexandra, cut the ribbon in front of the park’s front steps. A barbecue featuring hot dogs and hamburgers followed the unveiling.
Standing near the park’s sign, Jose Lopez said he was very proud of the new location.
“He was very young and we miss him a lot,” he said of Alex. “One of these days we’re going to see him again.”