Commuters, rejoice! I-64/US-40 will be back in business in a couple of days, and to celebrate, the MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION is holding a grand opening ceremony this Sunday, Dec. 6, when all lanes between Hanley Road and Kingshighway Boulevard will be open for pedestrians and bicyclists! Along with a ribbon-cutting, MoDOT officials will also unveil a sign designating the stretch of highway from the McCausland/Skinker interchange to the I-64/I-55 interchange as JACK BUCK MEMORIAL HIGHWAY. In addition, the public is encouraged to participate in an Operation Food Search food drive. Volunteers will be collecting canned food items at every access to the highway that day. The new I-64 officially reopens to traffic Dec. 7, one month ahead of schedule and $11 million under budget.

    Paying it forward…When Ladue News held a reader’s survey this summer, one lucky participant was picked as the winner of $500 to donate to a charity of his or her choice and another $500 to keep. That winner turned out to be KRISTIN GEMBALA of Chesterfield, who with her husband GEOFF founded Appreciate the World, an organization that encourages giving to change lives. Gembala donated the money to the Pujols Family Foundation, and then gave her three older children $100 each from her winnings to give to a charity of their choice. 12-year-old JOSH gave his money to Invisible Child, a group that works to prevent child slavery in Africa; 10-year-old ALYSSA gave half the money to Westminster Christian Academy, where she’s in fourth grade, and the rest to the Humane Society of Missouri; 6-year-old BRAEDEN made the Pujols Family Foundation his choice.

    Nothing but net…Hats off to Whitfield School senior and star basketball player TYLER ITUEN, who recently signed an early letter of intent with Morehead State University. Tyler, a starting guard for the women’s basketball team, received a full athletic scholarship and is the first female basketball player in Whitfield’s history to sign with a Division 1 school. Last season, she averaged 12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals per game.

    St. Louisan SALLY TIPPETT RAINS has written The Making of a Masterpiece: The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone with the Wind. Her inspiration came from another book that concluded there really was a Scarlett O’Hara and a Rhett Butler. After three years of genealogy research, countless interviews with living actors and historians, and many trips to Atlanta, Rains was able to uncover never-before-revealed information about how MARGARET MITCHELL came to write GWTW.

    Newspaper veteran BILL LHOTKA is out with his first-ever book, St. Louis Crime Chronicles: The First 200 Years, 1764-1964. The book documents dozens of crime stories from the infamous Greenlease kidnapping and the Grant administration’s whisky ring to the Great St. Louis Bank Robbery. Lhotka retired last year, after 45 years as a journalist, including 21 years with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

    A Kenyan rancher and three local community leaders are the recipients of awards handed out by the SAINT LOUIS ZOO during the annual Marlin Perkins Society dinner last month. IAN CRAIG of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya was honored with the 2009 Conservation Award for his role as a catalyst in saving the Grevy’s zebra, black rhino and other wildlife species close to extinction. Honoree JAY HENGES served as longtime zoo trustee and has been commissioner since 2001. The Corporate Award honoree is WELLS FARGO ADVISORS; while Foundation Award honoree is THE COOVERT FOUNDATION.

    Royalty graced the Central West End a few weeks ago when HIS HIGHNESS PAUL, DUKE OF OLDENBURG, GERMANY, was feted by philanthropist REX SINQUEFIELD at Herbie’s Vintage 72. More than a dozen distinguished guests from across the state schmoozed over the restaurant’s signature Beef Wellington, duck, scallops, short ribs and chocolate fritters. The Duke was in town to give a lecture at St. Francis de Sales Oratory on the importance of tradition.