Rachel G. Smylie, 21, of Oak Park, died on April 7, 2014 as the result of injuries suffered in an automobile accident in Namibia, Africa. Born on Jan. 7, 1993 in Oak Park, she attended Whittier and Holmes Elementary Schools, Brooks Middle School, and graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 2011. She was a junior at the University of Michigan.
As a junior in high school, Rachel became interested in Africa through The Road Less Traveled, a Chicago-based organization that provides young people with opportunities for travel and work on meaningful projects in the United States and abroad, while exposing them to new environments and different cultures.
The following summer, she traveled with the program to Tanzania where she worked with children who were victims of HIV/AIDS. It was a life-altering experience that she looked forward to continuing. As a student at the University of Michigan, Rachel continued to learn about HIV/AIDS through course work and by volunteering at a local clinic.
This semester, she returned to Africa to study at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and planned to volunteer at an HIV/AIDS clinic there. She was traveling in Namibia with several other students when the accident occurred.
Rachel sang in the Oak Park-River Forest Children's Chorus throughout high school. She and the group performed in Carnegie Hall and went on several international tours, including to Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Morocco. She also traveled on several mission trips with the Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church youth group and played volleyball and lacrosse at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
At Michigan, where she was majoring in anthropology and English, she was a member of Alpha Phi sorority, and a volunteer at the Washtenaw County HIV/AIDS clinic.
Rachel Smylie is survived by her parents, Sallie and Mark Smylie; her sisters, Anna Smylie and Lauren Smylie Gage (Patrick); her aunts, Cathy Smylie McGehee (Read), Beth Smylie Puckett (Ben), Melanie G. Walker (Robert C.), and Rev. Susan Rainey Dankel; her uncle, Frank Raysor; her cousins, Eliza McGehee, Jane McGehee, Bonnie Puckett (Michael Levine), Andy Puckett (Emily), Rebecca Puckett McWilliams, Matt McWilliams, Sarah Puckett, Sara Walker, and Robert Walker; and her grandparents, Elizabeth and James Smylie. She was preceded in death by her grandparents, the late Melba and Connolly C. Gamble.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 3, at First United Church in Oak Park, 848 Lake St. in Oak Park, followed by a reception.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to two memorial scholarships.
The first is the Rachel Gamble Smylie Memorial Scholarship Fund to support youth in service-oriented travel to Africa through The Road Less Traveled. Donations to this fund may be made online at www.geographyofhope.org/rachelgsmyliememorial.
The second is the Rachel Smylie Memorial Scholarship Fund established by the Pro Musica Youth Chorus (formerly the Oak Park-River Forest Children's Chorus) to support choristers who share Rachel's passion for song. For information about how to donate to this fund, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.