In my lifetime, there have been many people who have impacted my life - either directly or indirectly. People who have inspired me to be a better person, people who have believed in me, people who made a difference in this life. I suppose you could call them heroes.

A condensed version of this column was originally published in the July edition of Allegany Magazine.

By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
In my lifetime, there have been many people who have impacted my life - either directly or indirectly. People who have inspired me to be a better person, people who have believed in me, people who made a difference in this life. I suppose you could call them heroes.
First, when I was a little girl in elementary school, I just loved school. In fact, I loved everything about school - the teachers, my friends, learning new things.
At Westernport Elementary, I had a teacher in the fifth grade named Mrs. Joan Riley. As it would turn out, when I got to sixth grade, I would have the pleasure of having her as my sixth grade teacher, as well, because my teacher Miss Helen Simpson took leave to get married.
Why did I call Mrs. Riley my hero? I don't know how to describe it other than to say that I thought she was the most beautiful, the most kind person I have ever met in my life. As a little girl, I know I was loved by my family, but there was always a part of me that didn't quite feel loved...or important or worthy.
Then came Mrs. Riley. I remember how she made me feel as a very energetic 11 and 12 year old. She knew that I really loved school, and I remember her as being the first person who took the chance to get to know me. She believed in me and made me feel that I was smart and talented. She gave me opportunities in leadership, and encouraged my love of learning.
Mrs. Riley inspired me to always do my best, and when I succeeded with a test or an assigned task, she offered immediate feedback, praise and encouragement. She was strict, yet fair, and I loved her so much.
There was a time later in life when I made a point to tell her how much I thought of her and what a difference she made in my life. How lovely she was, even all of those years later! Still beautiful - and of all the thousands of students who passed through her classroom, she remembered me!
Before she passed away, she and I spoke and wrote to each other (and, by the way, she still had the most perfect cursive you ever saw!) - and we talked about the book I was writing that featured a poem about her. She asked me if she could have an autographed copy of my book, but she passed away before the book was completed.
When I received word that she had unexpectedly passed away, the family asked me if I would read the poem during her funeral. Oh, how I wanted to. I just cried and cried when she passed, and cried when her family asked me to be part of her final going away from this life. That is a memory that remains very precious to me.
Another person I consider a hero is Gloria Shillingburg, Westernport. Gloria was my Girl Scout leader when I was in elementary school, and I learned more in those three years in her troop than just about any other time in my life up to that point.
Like Mrs. Riley, Gloria was just so gracious and beautiful. Under her leadership, she taught me the importance of following the Girl Scout ways and being the best person I could be. She inspired me to work hard at my badge work and attend meetings every single week. She encouraged me, and all of us, to wear our Girl Scout uniforms with pride, and to take very good care of every piece of the uniform.
Her daughter, Linda Jo, was also in the troop, and Linda Jo and I had a friendly competition to see who could earn the most badges. I had so much fun doing my badge work and learning everything from sewing, painting, working with clay and sculpture, printing, cooking and baking and so much more.
I found everything exceptional about girl scouting. The most fun that we would have is going to day camp, and Camp Tioga. Gloria also took us on field trips and encouraged us to be involved in our community. She was a fine leader - a leader who volunteered her time to serve as a role model for all of us.
I will never forget how she made a little girl feel special, included and valued. Gloria still lives with her husband one street up from me, and on occasion, I will see her and her husband driving the truck up to their beautiful home.
It is because of Gloria Shillingburg - who volunteered her time to work with young girls to build their self esteem and confidence so that they could grow up into responsible community citizens - that I continued with scouting clear up to the level compared to Eagle Scout. And then, I became a Girl Scout leader for two years. Thank you, Gloria, for believing in me.
I suppose people have different definitions of what makes a hero. A hero could be someone who saves lives. A hero could be someone who has experienced loss and heartbreak, yet overcomes and moves on with their lives the best they can. Those kind of heroes inspire me because of what they've been through - tragic loss, unexpected death. Yet, they remain strong and courageous and inspire others because of that.
One such person - another Westernport neighbor - Sue Broadwater.
Sue is one of the most genuine people I know. She married her high school sweetheart Bob, and during their marriage, their lives increased by two children - Josh and Holly. Like most families, their lives were hectic while both parents worked and children went to school and grew into responsible adults.
But, a tragic thing happened not too long ago. Sue lost her husband suddenly. I knew her husband quite well, as we graduated from Bruce High School together. The community was shocked when we received the word about his passing. Gone too soon.
Today, I receive occasional inspirational messages from Sue - messages of encouragement and motivation. For you see, she happens to enjoy my writing, and she will send me a message on occasion lifting my spirits and encouraging me to keep on writing... finish my books...keep writing my newspaper columns.
There just are people in this world who take the time to show love for others even though their hearts may have been broken. This is Sue Broadwater. She's kind and loving, and I can't imagine what she has been through. Regardless of that, she's a hero to me - an inspiration really. I get her messages at just the right time - when I may be struggling with finding the words to put down on paper, or when I just need that little kick in the pants to get busy and get done!
I find heroes in just the simple things in life. People in small towns, small communities who care about each other. People who take that extra effort to brighten up others' dark and dreary days. People who do the nicest things without any expectations of acknowledgement.
Heroes who are just the simple folks doing the most simple things, and in their simplicity and pure hearts - they make a difference.