They spoke to CNN Monday morning from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where they were awaiting the arrival of their daughter's remains just over a week after their last conversation with her.
In that Easter chat, she excitedly told her parents about Kerry's recent visit to Afghanistan. She sent them photos and a congratulatory e-mail she received from the ambassador for her work during the trip.
"She was just so exuberant about everything that had transpired during that trip and what she had done," Mary Beth Smedinghoff said. "Obviously, we were very proud of her."
Kerry was emotional Sunday as he spoke of Smedinghoff's death and described his experience meeting her during the recent Afghanistan trip.
"I remember her -- vivacious, smart, capable, chosen often by the ambassador there to be the lead person because of her capabilities," he said.
This weekend, Smedinghoff "was just trying to deliver books, bring knowledge to people -- books in their own language -- in order to help them know about the possibilities of life," Kerry said on Monday. "And some wanton terrorist, out of the blue, nameless and faceless and now lifeless, attacked this group of people and took five lives."
Neighbor: 'She had candle power'
Residents in the River Forest, Illinois, neighborhood where the Smedinghoff family lives said they were devastated by the news.
"Anne Smedinghoff was one of those rare people who, you were lucky if you were near her. She had candle power," one neighbor told CNN affiliate WGN. "She brightened everyone's life."
Katie Whiting, whose sister was Smedinghoff's best friend, told the CNN affiliate that the "beautiful and brave" diplomat was doing her dream job.
"The world has really lost somebody who was going to do a lot of good things. ... Every dangerous place she wanted to go there, because that's where the hard work was," Whiting said.
In Smedinghoff's memory, CNN affiliate WBBM reported, American flags lined the road near her family's home on Sunday.
A large photograph she posted on her Facebook profile less than three weeks ago shows another road on the other side of the world, lined with Afghan flags.