By Renita D. Young
OAK PARK, Illinois (Reuters) - U.S. diplomat Anne Smedinghoff led a life of service from an early age, mourners said at a memorial service on Tuesday for the young Foreign Service worker who was killed last week in a car bombing in Afghanistan.
"She was a great model as a student," said Kevin Roche, a lifelong friend of Smedinghoff's who now teaches math at the high school they attended.
Fenwick High School, a Catholic school in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, held a memorial mass in honor of Smedinghoff, who graduated from the school in 2005 and from Johns Hopkins University in 2009.
"She was living a life of service, as well, not just to her classmates and friends, but to her community and the Oak Park community as a whole," Roche said after the service, which was attended by students, teachers, former classmates and members of her family.
Smedinghoff, 25, was killed along with four other Americans in a car bomb blast on Saturday as their convoy traveled in Zabul province to deliver textbooks to school children.
She had volunteered for the assignment in Afghanistan, where she served as an assistant information officer. Before that, she had been assigned to Caracas, Venezuela.
"I will remember her as a serenely beautiful champion for peace and justice," teacher Irene Drago said during the service.
Drago, who was Smedinghoff's Spanish teacher and is a faculty sponsor for the school's International Relations club, said her "quiet intelligence" and a gift for foreign languages helped lead Smedinghoff into a Foreign Service career.
As a student, Smedinghoff was part of the International Relations club, math team, cross country team and campus ministry, said Gerald Lordan, Fenwick's director of development.
Lordan encouraged students to follow her example, saying, "Nothing that Anne did is beyond your capacity."
In December, Smedinghoff returned to Fenwick to speak to students about her experiences in the Foreign Service.
"She encouraged students to know what's going on in the world and to try to make a difference," Reverend Richard Peddicord, the school's president, said before the service.
Fenwick senior Jack Miller was among the students who said after the service they were awed by Smedinghoff's drive to join the Foreign Service.
"It really is inspiring to me, thinking about what I want to do with my life, seeing a person being so motivated so quickly," Miller said.
(Editing by David Bailey)