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Father remembers slain diplomat daughter’s smile, sense of adventure

Updated: May 19, 2013 7:41AM

Tom Smedinghoff stood stoically Wednesday in St. Luke Church and lovingly remembered his daughter Anne.

The quiet but confident girl from River Forest who grew up to be a U.S. diplomat.

Who was blessed with intelligence and compassion for others.

And who wore a smile so often, the Embassy in Kabul held a scavenger hunt to see if they could find a photograph she took without one.

“Her smile really, really made — made your day,” said Tom Smedinghoff, an American flag on the lapel of his black suit.

Anne Smedinghoff was killed April 6 by an apparent suicide bomber while delivering textbooks in southern Afghanistan. And Wednesday, outside the River Forest church where she was eulogized, American flags fluttered against gray skies.

White ribbons clung tight to the trees of the western suburb that was Anne’s hometown, a sight her father called “so absolutely tremendous.”

“It is so gratifying to drive down the street and see ribbons everywhere,” he said. “It really is helping us tremendously.”

And when her funeral ended, mourners stood outside in the rain for several minutes — one little boy held an American flag sign reading “God bless Anne” — until a hearse carried her casket away.

Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy spoke at the funeral, and he shared how Secretary of State John Kerry said he will always remember Anne Smedinghoff’s “vivacious personality and seemingly effortless grace.”

She died shortly after she served as a guide for Kerry during his recent visit to Afghanistan, and the secretary visited Chicago this week to pay his respects to her family.

Kennedy also said Anne’s death has inspired memorials on three continents.

“Meeting Anne changed people’s lives,” Kennedy said.

Tom Smedinghoff thanked his family, the community and people from around the world for the support they’ve offered. He said a military veteran even offered to send him a Purple Heart he earned in Vietnam to honor Anne.

Tom Smedinghoff acknowledged a lot has already been said and written about her.

“You all, if you’ve read the articles, probably know more about her than we do,” he told the crowd.

Nevertheless, Anne’s father endeavored to share with them a few stories they might not have read in the papers.

He told them how Anne learned the art of negotiation at an early age — as a 3-year-old avoiding vegetables at the dinner table. How he learned about the skydiving trip she took with an uncle and kept secret. And how he once opened his Facebook page to learn his daughter was about to go parasailing “over some ravine somewhere in Venezuela.”

“We lived vicariously through Anne,” Tom Smedinghoff said.

And finally, he told the crowd how his daughter chose at her confirmation to honor St. Clare, who worked with the poor and St. Francis of Assisi.

He said the way Anne lived in Afghanistan could perhaps be summed up best by the first line of the prayer of St. Francis: “Let there be peace on Earth. And let it begin with me.”

That’s when Tom Smedinghoff’s voice faltered for the first time.

“We will miss Anne,” he said at the end of his daughter’s eulogy. “We’ll always remember her.

“We love you Anne. Thank you.”

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