Rev. Harriet Smolka, minister of Religious Science

Rev. Harriet Smolka, 56, died from complications due to a heart attack in Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park Oct. 1, 2006, according to news reports. Rev. Smolka lived in Oak Park since 1989, and in the weeks before her death, she was planning to move to Maui, Hawaii, where her daughter lives.

Rev. Smolka was born in Genk, Belgium, where her Polish parents had relocated to during World War II. The family left to Chicago’s Ukrainian Village when she was 8 years old. She attended the now-defunct Holy Family Academy on Division Street and worked at the Imperial Bakery on Damen Avenue, where she later became co-manager at 16.

According to her husband, Rev. Smolka was fluent in approximately 10 languages. She dropped out of University of Illinois at Chicago after one year to become a nun, also studying languages with the hope of someday working for the United Nations.

However, things didn’t go as planned, and she continued to work as an office assistant for a cardiologist, a job she held while at UIC. Around the age of 30, Rev. Smolka became depressed with the death of her father and all of her friends getting married, and she subsequently attended positive thinking courses at Water Tower Place.

She met her husband Christopher Smolka at a party in 1981 while sitting on a teetering bench. When she stood up off the unbalanced bench, he fell to the ground. She apologized repeatedly and sat back down for a talk. He then stood up, which caused her to fall. Love bloomed from the humorous encounter, and the two married in 1985.

Mr. Smolka, an atheist before marrying, accepted Religious Science after taking positive thinking classes with Rev. Smolka. The couple both became ministers after years of studying, and in 1988 they left for Barbados with the intention of starting a congregation.

The Smolkas returned to Oak Park in 1989 and they became pastors at the Church of Religious Science, founded in 1927 by Ernest Holmes and based on the belief of “universal creative spirit.” The church was located in the Arts Center on Oak Park Avenue for a number of years but recently moved to the Chicago side of North Avenue.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Religious Science is about spiritual healing, which Rev. Smolka was trained in. Mr. Smolka told the Tribune he found no contradiction between the religion’s teachings and his wife’s early death.

“Sometimes, people who are healers are not that good with themselves. She took on a lot of other people’s issues,” said Mr. Smolka.

In addition to her husband, Rev. Smolka is survived by her two daughters, Melissa Blevins and Amanda Zoloto; two grandchildren; her brother, Stanley Srednicki, and a sister, Sofia Stevens.

A service was held Oct. 7 in the Arts Center at 200 N. Oak Park Ave.

Arthur Mattke, salesman in accounting

Arthur F. Mattke, 81, passed away Sept. 25, 2006, in Rolling Meadows. Mr. Mattke worked in sales in the accounting industry and was a longtime resident of Oak Park. He was born in 1924 in Clinton, Ind., to Arthur and Frances Mattke.

Mr. Mattke is survived by his sister, Barbara Damko of Palatine, his nieces Deborah and Laura, and several cousins.

Private services have been held.

Barbara Fiedler, educational activist, patron of the arts

Barbara Fiedler, 70, of River Forest passed away in her home after a long battle with cancer.

Formally of Oak Park, Fiedler lost her father when she was 8 and was orphaned at 16. Mrs. Fiedler and her 10 siblings bonded together after the loss of their parents, becoming reliant on each other. With the assistance of her elder siblings and church parish, she was able to continue her education at Trinity High School and receive a degree from Rosary College, both in River Forest. She later received her master’s in education from National Louis University.

Mrs. Fiedler met her husband, Edward Fiedler Jr. of Oak Park, at a dance they both attended with other dates. She spent a summer studying in Europe after they met, but Mr. Fiedler wrote her every day for the four months she was gone. They started dating after she returned and subsequently married five months later.

She was a board member at Dominican University, a docent at the Art Institute of Chicago, and a former docent at the Terra Museum of American Art. For a number of years Mrs. Fiedler took in women from Sara’s Inn, a haven for battered women. She recently received the Alumnae Service Award from Trinity High School. Her time was also spent volunteering for PADS at St. Edmund Parish for 10 years and participating in Great Books discussion groups for 20 years. Mrs. Fiedler was a founding member of a women’s investment group in River Forest, and, as a political activist, her final days were spent on attempting to draft a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine.

Mrs. Fiedler is survived by her husband Edward, her sons Edward (Jane) and Kurt, her daughters Hope (Bill) Geldes, Sara (Mark) Wienkes, and Jessica (Tony) Roche. She’s also survived by numerous grandchildren.

Visitation was held on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated Oct. 11 at 1:00 p.m. at St. Edmund Church in Oak Park. Interment is private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Barbara Fiedler Memorial Scholarship Fund at Dominican University.

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