Longtime educator Mary McHugh had six children, eight grandchildren and a great granddaughter at home, but her reach also spanned at least 49 years of students.
"She loved them all like they were her own," Belleville District 118 Superintendent Matt Klosterman said of McHugh at a memorial service on Tuesday.
McHugh died on July 18 at age 83 after having liver cancer.
Nearly 400 people attended the tribute at Franklin School, where McHugh taught for most of her career.
Former students, and fellow educators and community leaders, from multiple generations spoke of McHugh's effect on their lives.
Janet Metzger, 66, was a student in McHugh's first class at Franklin School in 1958. Metzger returned to the school in 1970 to teach fifth grade alongside her mentor, McHugh.
"All the kids couldn't wait to have her as a teacher," Metzger said.
When Deedee Wachter-Davis, 54, didn't have money for a cheerleading uniform, McHugh took her shopping.
Pat Beshears, 62, and her son, Jim Barganier, 35, were both taught by McHugh.
The mother and son remember McHugh's warmth and energy. Even in her 60's, McHugh was doing cartwheels during the award ceremonies on Field Days.
Many spoke of how McHugh worked tirelessly to improve the Belleville community -- from trying to close the racial divide through the Center for Racial Harmony to bridging the education gap via the Franklin Neighborhood Community Association and more.
And, McHugh compelled others to believe they have a responsibility, and what it takes, to do the same.
Retired educator Lynn Clapp urged everyone to honor McHugh by carrying on her community service work and simply being kind to others.
"She knew you could make a difference, so won't you?" Clapp said. "It's going to take every single one of us to replace her."
Jim Schneider, director of Human Resources for the city of Belleville, said McHugh modeled the way for us all.
"You relentlessly believed in us and what we were capable of," Schneider said "And we know what to do because you're the best teacher ever."