Each of us is shaped, for better or worse, by the influence of numerous people, the layering of multiple events, and, of course, the inexplicable complexities of time and chance.

To a curly-topped toddler born in the first wave of Post-World War II baby boomers, Shirley Temple was more than a beloved entertainer.

She was my first hero.

In a variety of roles, Shirley faced evil, survived disaster, befriended outcasts, and protected the weak. By the end of every movie, this charming, charismatic girl-child had set the world right.

Shirley Temple didn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound and she wasn’t faster than a speeding bullet, but she sang and danced her way into the hearts of America. It’s important to believe the power of love is greater than the power of brute force. It’s especially important when you are a small child in a big world.

Author Elizabeth Barsuglia displaying her childhood Shirley Temple influence.

I was a little girl watching and believing in another little girl – who had the power to remain optimistic and hopeful no matter how difficult the situation, no matter how great the heartbreak. Shirley never gave up. She faced the world with an open heart and dimpled smile. And she was always victorious.

Shirley Temple fans know she was so much more than a child star. She was the best in all of us. She will be missed and mourned.

Shirley Temple Black passed away on February 10, 2014. She was 85.

By Elizabeth Barsuglia