River Forest Public Library's garden will carry Anne Smedinghoff's name

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Deborah Kadin

Contributing Reporter

The love of reading and education were strong in Anne Smedinghoff's life.

She was a voracious reader, her father, Tom Smedinghoff, said Monday. And when the young diplomat died in a bombing in early April in Afghanistan she was delivering books to a school, he recalled.

Her life's work will become part of River Forest's permanent visual landscape when the River Forest Public Library, village officials, the Smedinghoff family and the entire community come together June 1 to dedicate the public library's garden in her memory.

The 10,800 square-foot space -- the entire front of the library, at 735 Lathrop Ave. -- will be become the Anne Smedinghoff Memorial Garden during the ceremony, which will be from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Tom Smedinghoff, who is a trustee at the library, said he was touched by the "overture – the idea – that the library came up with."

"It was particularly fitting for Anne. Delivering school books was what she was doing when she was killed. It's very nice and very touching. I appreciated what they were doing and very glad to see that," said Smedinghoff.

More than 2,000 shrubs, bulbs, vines and flowers will grace the space, along with benches and a seating wall where folks can sit and take part in programs.

The garden was completed late last year, but putting a name on the space had not been contemplated until early spring.

A promising U.S. diplomat, Smedinghoff, along with four other Americans and an Afghan doctor, were killed April 6 while they were walking from a military base to a nearby school in southern Afghanistan. Smedinghoff, 25 and a River Forest native, was attempting to deliver textbooks.

Among the personal effects sent back to her family after her death was her River Forest Public Library card, said Sophia Anastos, the library's executive director.

Anastos said when Smedinghoff died, library officials, like the rest of the community, were in shock. Later she and library board president Alice Calabrese-Berry met informally to figure out how to support Tom Smedinghoff, the family and the community.

The answer became self-evident. The idea of naming the garden was approved by library trustees in mid-April, Anastos said.

"We're going to have a celebration. It's a lovely space. And it seemed like a natural fit that we should remember her in a positive way. This will bring a little closure to the community," Anastos said.

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