Plans in place to name Chicago park after Brian Piccolo

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Brian Picollo. (Sun-Times Files)

Mary Jo Viero remembers playing with the daughters of former Bears running back Brian Piccolo in the Beverly neighborhood on the Southwest Side.

“I was playing with the girls, and we were tiny, and he would do the airplane rides,” Viero said.

Piccolo lived in Beverly when he played for the Bears from 1965 to 1969 before dying at 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma on June 16, 1970.

Piccolo’s story and relationship with Gale Sayers were immortalized in the movie “Brian’s Song.”

The Bears also have an award voted on by teammates named in his honor. The Piccolo Award honors a rookie and a veteran player who exhibit courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and a sense of humor.

Running back Jordan Howard and wide receiver Josh Bellamy were the award winners for the 2016 season.

Viero also wants to honor Piccolo’s legacy.

She grew up on the same block of Vanderpoel Avenue in Beverly as the Piccolo family. Now a community organizer for the Beverly Area Planning Association, Viero developed the idea to establish a park bearing Piccolo’s name.

Plans for Piccolo Park are in the early stages, but a plot of land has been secured by the Chicago Park District near 91st Street and Longwood Drive. Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) supports the plan. The park would be down the street from Piccolo’s old family home on Vanderpoel.

The Bears invited O’Shea, Viero, Margot Burke Holland, the executive director of the planning association, and others to attend the award ceremony for Howard and Bellamy at Halas Hall on Tuesday.

Joseph Murphy, a local landscape architect, has developed an initial design for the park. It would include a small football field, a statue of Piccolo and a memorial garden.

A fundraising campaign will be organized when plans are formalized.

Viero also said that the neighborhood association is hoping to convince Metra to name a nearby station after Piccolo, too. The station is next to the planned park site.

“[The Piccolo family] really still feels Beverly is a special place for them,” Viero said. “It’s where they got married. It’s where they had their three kids.”

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

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