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Schwab: Family and friends to celebrate life of East’s Daley

Friends and family members will celebrate the life of Anna Daley, who  died Tuesday from complications of acute myeloid leukemia.
Friends and family members will celebrate the life of Anna Daley, who died Tuesday from complications of acute myeloid leukemia.

Anna Daley seldom had the luxury of physical comfort in her final months. She still saw to it that her friends would have it when they came to say goodbye.

At Monday’s memorial service in honor of Daley, who died Tuesday from complications of acute myeloid leukemia, friends and classmates are encouraged to attend and wear relaxed clothing, especially St. Charles East orange, according to Anna’s mother, Lisa Daley. The service will be at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva’s West Campus.

“Anna never once wanted to dress up for church, so the kids need to come in their sportswear and casual and they need to come and celebrate her life and her friendship and what she stood for,” Lisa Daley said.

Daley, 17, spent a portion of her final day planning details of the memorial service, adamant that her St. Charles East golf teammates were treated as an extension of her family. It was important to her that the service be a celebration of her life, rather than an occasion to mourn.

Her close friends recall a determined, loving and spiritual girl who somehow maintained her endearing characteristics, even as her body was ravaged by treatment, first at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield and later at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Nicole Rae, a former teammate of Daley’s on the Saints girls golf team and now a student at the University of Iowa, called Daley “absolutely one of a kind.” Rae recalled a touching correspondence with Daley after Rae’s first college competition with the Hawkeyes’ golf team in the fall.

“She got sick, and she wasn’t doing well that weekend, and she cared enough to text me and ask me how my tournament was going,” Rae said. “Even though she was so sick, she was still caring for other people than herself. ... She was an incredible fighter. I don’t know how or where she got that strength, whether it was in golf or her fight with cancer. She was just so strong and positive all the time.”

Daley made drastic strides in her golf game between her freshman and sophomore seasons with the Saints, and enjoyed a promising summer of golf leading up to her junior year until she was diagnosed with leukemia just before tryouts. The ensuing months were primarily spent in hospitals, with her parents, Sean and Lisa, guiding her through the harrowing treatment as friends and strangers throughout the community rallied in support.

Their efforts culminated in a highly successful bone marrow match drive in the fall. Lisa Daley said two of the roughly 300 prospective donors have been informed they are a match for somebody in need of a transplant, a legacy of which Anna took tremendous pride.

Sean and Lisa Daley met at the University of Tennessee. Between Anna’s southern roots and her zeal for golf, she was a natural best friend for East student Darby Crane, who shares both of those characteristics; Crane was born in Alabama, and notes that “both of our moms still have the heavy accents.”

Aside from Anna’s parents and her boyfriend, East lacrosse player Alex O’Brien, nobody knew her as well as Crane. Anna didn’t have siblings, but Crane said it became an “unspoken” understanding that the pair’s relationship was more like sisters than friends.

Crane loved Anna for her forgiving nature, her sense of humor, her warmth. After youth group on Sundays, they would play with small children at the First Baptist Church’s preschool. The kids adored Anna.

“They really loved her,” Crane said. “She was a big hit. One of the kids called her ‘Panda’ because he couldn’t say ‘Anna,’ and she thought ‘Panda’ sounded so funny. They all loved her.”

Even as Anna was robbed of so much during her illness – she even had a dress in hopes of attending East’s recent prom, but had to scrap those plans when her condition worsened – her love of family, friends and commitment to faith provided solace.

“As the months went on and on, she just grew closer and closer to God every single day, and even though she may have been mad because things weren’t going the right way, she still prayed to Him and loved Him,” said Alexis Cayton, a friend and classmate of Daley’s who said Anna hooked her on country music. “She never once lost her faith.”

Reliving stories of Anna’s happier and healthier days have helped friends and family cope in what has been an extraordinarily difficult week. That is exactly what Lisa Daley expects to see unfold Monday night, with plenty of orange in the crowd.

It’s what Anna wanted.

“She never gave up,” Lisa Daley said. “She fought completely and entirely and she loved St. Charles and she loved this area. Now, it’s time to celebrate her life.”

• Jay Schwab is sports editor at the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or jschwab@shawmedia.com.

ANNA DALEY MEMORIAL SERVICE
When: 6 p.m. Monday
Where: First Baptist Church of Geneva, West Campus, 3435 Keslinger Road
Of note: The entire community is welcome to attend and Anna's friends and classmates are encouraged to wear St. Charles East orange, which is also the color for leukemia awareness. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial donations be made to First Baptist Church of Geneva, West Campus

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