River Forest Villager of the Year runner-up: Anne Smedinghoff

Anne Smedinghoff, honored through books

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By Deb Kadin

Contributing Reporter

Anne Smedinghoff, honored through booksAnne Smedinghoff's diplomatic work will long be remembered for its efforts to help bring a bit of tranquility to a troubled part of the world.

So it seems fitting that items that suggest feelings of peace – books – have been at the heart of events honoring the River Forest native and Fenwick High School graduate, who is a runner-up for River Forest Villager of the Year.

The 25-year-old Smedinghoff, who was stationed as a Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan, was on her way to deliver donated schoolbooks when her convoy was attacked in Zabul Province by a suicide bomber, killing the promising young diplomat and four others.

Her death brought an intense and emotional response across the nation but especially in River Forest where every tree had a ribbon and her funeral procession drew large crowds to St. Luke on Lake Street. 

Drives and other efforts related to books have taken place throughout the area, in Baltimore, where Smedinghoff's alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, is located, and elsewhere.

A group of women from First Presbyterian Church collected about 2,500 books for a local charity. Bernie's Book Bank in River Forest collected books in her honor and drop-off spots were set up in River Forest, Oak Park and Western Springs for donations.

To continue her legacy, Johns Hopkins coordinated the Anne Smedinghoff Memorial Book Drive to benefit Baltimore Reads, a non-profit that provides free books to needy children in that city. 

The organization also dedicated its annual Books for Kids event in her honor, to commemorate Smedinghoff's commitment to literacy and improving the lives of children, according to the Johns Hopkins alumni web page. 

Information about the effort went out via Facebook and Twitter.

In June, the River Forest Public Library, of which her father, Tom, is a trustee, dedicated the garden in front of its Lathrop Avenue site in her memory. 

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, entry-level Foreign Service officers donated books and curriculum guides to a primary school in one of that city's poorest communities, according to the November 2013 issue of State Magazine, a publication of the U.S. State Department.

Inspired by Smedinghoff's dedication to peace, a book -- "A Language of the Heart" -- was dedicated to her this past fall. The book features artwork created by American and Afghani children as a way to reach across the globe in unity. 

The book is the creation of a project between Catholic school children from across the Chicago archdiocese and the Sisters of St. Joseph of LaGrange Park. Participating in the project were students from St. Luke's School, where Smedinghoff attended. 


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