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Lawrence County heroes may be the people next door

Hero. Our good friends at Webster's define the word as any person admired for courage, nobility

and any person admired for their qualities or achievements who is regarded as an ideal or model.

Lawrence County overflows with everyday heroes - private citizens who go above and beyond to make southern Ohio such a special place to live and work.

Of course, our firefighters, police officers and military personnel are heroes but someone does not have to risk life and limb to achieve this distinction.

But you see, these everyday heroes are hard to find.

The very same characteristics that make them stand out are the same characteristics that make keep them from standing up. Most are so quick to deflect praise that their feats of overwhelming kindness and dedication go unsung.

Well, that is going to change for at least a few because I am about to do some singing. (You will thank me that it is figurative and not literal.)

Anyone who has gone to an event in Ironton probably owes small business owner Lou Pyles a "thank you." Lou works tirelessly on so many different events that it is impossible to name them.

Lou took over as Ironton Lions Club president almost 2 years ago to fill an unexpired term. Not only did she step up to the plate then but she served a 1-year term of her own.

Through the Lions she works every year to organize the Halloween and Christmas parades. She also dedicates countless hours to the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade Committee, even helping the parade gain national media attention.

Ask friend and fellow Lion Judge Frank McCown about Lou and he offers up one word quickly: Marvelous.

"She does a lot. No question. Give her a job to do and she'll do it," McCown said as he relayed countless stories of leadership and hard work. "She is just a marvelous young lady who never looks for credit. She just does a marvelous job for the city."

Virginia Bryant may be the Energizer Bunny of Lawrence County. She is constantly working to make positive changes in the county but runs from the spotlight just as vigorously.

Virginia has long been active in the First Baptist Church of Ironton, the Lawrence County Historical Society, the Historic Jail at Burlington Restoration Committee, the Ironton Co-Operative Club and much more.

In fact, Bryant was nominated more than any other person to be one of The Tribune's 2005 Unsung Heroes. True to form, she refused to accept any praise and instead nominated several others to take her place.

This very second, she might be plotting revenge for this recognition. But hard work deserves a reward, so it is a chance I am willing to take.

Fellow volunteer Dave Milem said he never ceases to be amazed at all Bryant is able to accomplish including almost single-handedly putting together the Lawrence County Trivia game.

"I wish I had the ability to schedule my time like she does," Milem said. "I don't know how she does all that she does. And she is like that with everything she gets involved in."

For Milem, people such as Virginia are what make this region so special.

"We have a lot of people like Virginia in Lawrence County," Milem said.

Another of those people is Bernard Conwell. The lifelong Burlington resident is extremely active at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Ironton and with the Concerned Citizens of Burlington.

Conwell has worked to maintain the park - the Burlington Commons - for years, never letting the vandalism and selfishness of a few deter him.

"He has given a lot and continues to give," said fellow concerned citizen Harriette Ramsey. "He is the catalyst that keeps us together. Without him our playground and our playground committee would have folded."

These three individuals are only a few of the countless special people living in our communities. Everyone probably knows dozens more like them. Those who don't seek any attention are often the ones that deserve it the most.

Michael Caldwell is managing editor at The Ironton Tribune. To reach Mike, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com