Homer Township Library honors fallen hero
By Susan DeMar Lafferty
The Homer Glen community came together again Friday, as it had two years ago, to honor one of its sons, one of its fallen heroes, as residents and supporters dedicated the new Michael C. Olivieri Heroes Quiet Reading Room at the Homer Township Library’s new addition.
“This room was built as a memorial to our son, but it honors not only Mikey, but police, firemen, librarians, mothers, fathers and all the heroes in our lives,” said the late soldier’s father, Mike Olivieri.
“If it is possible, I want to thank the entire town for the support they have shown my family from the beginning,” he said.
U.S. Army Pfc. Michael C. Olivieri, 26, and four others belonging to the 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kan., were killed in Baghdad on June 6, 2011, when insurgents attacked their base.
His mother, Jody Olivieri, is the library’s youth services director.
“This is a time of remembrance and celebration,” she said, as she explained the artwork above the fireplace in the reading room.
The piece was designed to represent “Mikey’s” life. It was created by local åartist Sheri Law with input from the Olivieri family, and bears a quote from Pearl Jam’s “Light Years,” one of the soldier’s favorite songs: “Wherever you’ve gone and wherever we may go, your light’s reflected now, reflected from afar.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) said Olivieri will “continue to inspire all of us.”
“Truly, Mike lived his life in service to others. This will remind people of that and inspire them to live a life of service,” he said.
Library director Sheree Kozel-La Ha said more than 300 donors contributed $50,000 to this room, which she described as a “wonderful space for quiet reflection.” Donations still are being accepted at the library.
Library Trustee Phyllis Levine said the room is designated as a “heroes reading room” to recognize all the different kinds of heroes in our lives.
The dedication ceremony included the Lockport Township High School Air Force Junior ROTC and the national anthem being sung by the school’s choir members.
Olivieri was a 2002 Lockport graduate and a field artillery data systems operator assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment. He was deployed to Iraq in November, 2010 and was part of the 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, supporting the development of Iraqi forces and the improvement of civilian life in central Iraq. He died on the 67th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France in 1944.
The library’s new reading room is not the only memorial to the young soldier. The Homer Glen Foundation began the Mike Hike 5K walk/run in 2011 to raise money to commemorate local heroes. This year’s third annual walk/run will be Nov. 13. For information, visit www.mikehike5k.com.
The foundation also built a memorial garden and connected Hiawatha Drive to the Michael C. Olivieri section of the Homer Glen Heroes Trail. The trail connects the Olivieris’ neighborhood street to the Heroes Trail, which also honors veterans, police officers and firefighters.
The Olivieri family also donated a bench as a memorial to their son along the library’s StoryWalk trail in Sendra Park.
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