RIVER FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Hundreds of mourners were packing into a church in west suburban River Forest on Wednesday, to pay their final respects to a young woman killed while working as a diplomat in Afghanistan.
Anne Smedinghoff, 25, was killed in a bombing in Kabul on April 6 while helping deliver books to Afghan children.
In her hometown of River Forest on Wednesday, trees all over town have been adorned with white ribbons in tribute to the young Foreign Service officer with the U.S. State Department.
Those who knew and loved her were saying goodbye at her funeral at St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church.
Pastor Ken Fischer stood before Anne’s family at the church, offering words of condolence and hope.
“All the white ribbons are a simple, yet heartfelt gesture,” he said.
Smedinghoff’s father said the ribbons have helped the family, and he thanked those who have reached out to them.
“I got an email from a gentleman who wrote that he served in Vietnam. He offered his condolences. He said ‘Please send me your address, because I have two Purple Hearts from when I was in Vietnam, and I want to send you one for Anne.’ And it was just so touching, so touching,” Tom Smedinghoff said.
Anne’s father said so much has been written about her, the public probably knows more about her than her family does.
“She was a quiet, but very confident girl, with big ambitions. She really had a sense of purpose in her life, and sort of a quiet but confident resolve. She was blessed with intelligence, but she also had a great deal of compassion for others,” he said.
He said Anne was a negotiator as early as 3 years old, when it came to eating her vegetables.
Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy, a career Foreign Service officer, said he came to the funeral with a heavy, but proud, heart.
“Anne stood out as a superstar in the making,” he said. “Meeting Anne changed people’s lives. She inspired Afghanis young and old to pursue their dreams, think critically about our modern world, and in many cases to reconsider their perceptions of America.”
Her father offered a moment of levity as he alluded to all the praise being given to Anne since her death.
“I don’t think she actually walked on water or leapt tall buildings in a single bound,” he said.
He said the first line hymn “Let there be Peace on Earth” best describes her life.
“’Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.’ I’ll always remember her. We love you, Annie,” he said.
Anne was killed last week while attempting to deliver textbooks to Afghan children, when a suicide bomber blew himself up nearby. Anne died in the blast, along with three members of the American military, a Defense Department translator, and an Afghan doctor.
Anne had just recently escorted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Afghanistan. After learning of her death, Kerry traveled to Chicago to meet and grieve with her family.
Kerry has described her as “everything that was right about our foreign service. She was someone who worked hard so that others could live a better life.”
The funeral mass was followed by a private burial at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked for contributions to one of several organizations listed on www.annesmedinghoff.com to honor Anne and her work.