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Greg Freeman Park dedicated in Skinker DeBaliviere

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 5, 2009 - The memory of the late Post-Dispatch columnist Gregory Freeman remains very much alive in Skinker DeBaliviere, his old neighborhood. Residents there will make that memory permanent on Aug. 4 by changing the name of Four Corners Park, at Kingsbury at Des Peres, to Greg Freeman Park. The event takes between 6 and 9 p.m. as part of the annual National Night Out celebration at the park.

Freeman, who died in 2002, was known for his modesty and probably would have insisted that he didn’t deserve the honor. But people who know him say otherwise. One of his closest friends was Lorraine Kee, a former Post-Dispatch writer and columnist who is now manager of corporate Web communications at SSM Health Care.

“There are people who disparage St. Louis as being too small, too parochial, too divided,” Kee says. “But, on a daily basis, Greg showed great affection for the community he grew up and worked in. He was one of St. Louis' biggest boosters through his newspaper columns. He and his mother talked affectionately of the Penrose neighborhood he grew up in. He was proud of where he went to high school (Beaumont). He lived in and loved the Skinker DeBaliviere neighborhood. I can think of few better ways in which to honor Greg and his love for St. Louis than by dedicating a park in his name.”

Peacemaker and Optimist

Lana Stein, a frequent Beacon contributor who formerly headed the Political Science Department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, also became a good friend of Freeman through his association with the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council, where he served as vice president for two years.

“A lot of the characteristics he brought to his columns were evident in his neighborhood work,” Stein says of Freeman. “He was warm and empathetic with a fabulous laugh that came from deep within him. He could get along with different types of people, could always find common ground. And he put the board on an even keel.” She said she admired Freeman, too, for his optimism, always believing the neighborhood and the community would improve.

National Night Out

Darcell Braylock, executive director of the Community Council, says the National Night Out program will include refreshments, activities for children, and music by Bones Jones, a south St. Louis band. The program is a national event that seeks to build public awareness of crime and crime prevention and build stronger partnerships between police and communities.

Robert Joiner has carved a niche in providing informed reporting about a range of medical issues. He won a Dennis A. Hunt Journalism Award for the Beacon’s "Worlds Apart" series on health-care disparities. His journalism experience includes working at the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, wire editor, editorial writer, columnist, and member of the Washington bureau.