COLUMBIA — Patricia Powell: teacher, wife, mother, friend, cancer survivor, volunteer. The list goes on, and Powell can now add Missouri Retired Teachers Association's "2008 Distinguished Retiree."
Representatives of the groups Missouri State Teachers Association, Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri, Missouri Association of Elementary School Principles, American Federation of Teachers of Missouri and Missouri Association of School Administrators chose Powell to receive the honor.
Powell taught for 23 years, and 20 of those years were spent at West Junior High School where she was a media specialist in the library.
Powell attended MU and Illinois State University, each for two years. She earned a master's degree in library science at MU.
Powell said she enjoyed the cultures, faiths and ideas that others brought to West.
"No two days are alike at school," she said, "and you can learn so much from other people."
Powell said she appreciated the school's support when she battled breast cancer eight years ago.
"It persuaded every woman in the building to go get a mammogram," said Powell, now cancer free.
She said leaving after 20 years at West was bittersweet.
"It's a wonderful thing to retire and have a new chapter in your life, but it's hard to leave people you have worked with for so long," Powell said.
Since retiring five years ago, Powell became an active member of the Boone County Unit of Missouri Retired Teachers Association and served in many leadership positions, including president, within the organization.
Joyce Hulett knows Powell through the Boone County Retired Teachers Association, where Hulett serves as coordinator of volunteerism.
"She deserves (the distinguished retiree award) because she gives a lot to other people," Hulett said. "She gives her time and funds to good causes."
Powell has served as an appointed member of the Boone County Library Board and volunteers with the Central Missouri Food Bank and the Boone County Historical Society.
Also, Powell is a member of Columbia's chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, a professional honor society of women educators.
Another retirement highlight has been having time to organize and send books to soldiers with ties to Boone County.
Powell has collected and mailed more than 1800 paperback books to 13 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. She said it started when a fellow teacher with a son in Afghanistan told her that soldiers were in need of some entertainment.
"I know the soldiers get bored off duty," Powell said, "and I feel reading is something that is really important."
Powell has been married to Joe Powell for 40 years. They have a son and a daughter. She said she enjoys the freedom retirement brings and getting more involved in the community.