A cozy library reading room with a fireplace, comfy chairs and soothing artwork is helping celebrate the life of Army Pfc. Michael C. Olivieri and other veterans.
Staff at Homer Township Public Library had long dreamed of having a quiet reading room, especially since the library was a large open and sometimes noisy space before a recent renovation. But after Olivieri's death in 2011 while serving in Iraq, his family and library staff agreed the special room should call attention to the contributions of the former Homer Glen resident.
The library spent roughly $200,000 on the room, with about $50,000 from donations. Staff are still hoping for more donations to offset the cost and to use for future materials for the room.
The Heroes Quiet Reading Room was dedicated on Aug. 16, which would have been Olivieri's 28th birthday. The room also includes bookshelves, tables, couches, a fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows and two pieces of glass artwork commissioned from Sheri Law Art Glass, Ltd. in Homer Glen. One picture represents an American flag and the other symbolizes Olivieri, his creativity and his family. That picture includes circles depicting birthstones for each of Olivieri's family members and colors of the sports teams he loved, a pic and black lines representing a guitar, airbrushed yellow for his cheerful personality, and a verse from his favorite song, "Light Years," by Pearl Jam.
"It is really wonderful to kind of have a lasting memorial to him in the community where he was raised," said Jody Olivieri, Michael's mom and youth services manager at the library. "But on the other hand, looking and seeing his name reminds us he's gone."
She said the community showed tremendous support for their loss and a determination to honor his memory. Events to honor him include the Mike Hike 5K Run by the Homer Glen Foundation, which raised money for a memorial garden and portion of the Homer Glen Heroes Trail.
"I'm surprised quite often when people will say kind things, come up and hand me money for a donation to continue his memory," she said.
Sheree Kozel-La Ha, library executive director said the family and library wanted to "make something really wonderful out of Mikey's death."
"They were very excited to try to make this tragedy something that would benefit the community in the long run in Mikey's name," said Kozel-La Ha. "They've been long-time members of the community and it was just a tragedy."
Kozel-La Ha noted the special artwork helped showcase the importance of individuals like Olivieri. Sheri Law , who designed the pieces, said she met with Olivieri's family and spent hours researching him on the computer to get to know him better.
"I have not personally felt the pain of the Olivieri family, but I was brought to tears as I worked on the piece [representing Olivieri]," she said. "I poured my heart and soul into the design of this art glass." (Law has two sons who served in Desert Storm, one of whom also did several tours in Afghanistan and is nicknamed Mikey.)
"The desire was to honor all heroes … it's not only soldiers, but there are so many heroes in our everyday lives," Law said.