Pam Dudding Contributing writer
Communities bring togetherness and family-like friendships. And for some, they just enjoy giving and being a part of comm”UNITY.”
Recently, Lanier Frantz of New Castle received the Unsung Virginian Award, bestowed annually since 1968 by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.
Headquartered in Glen Allen, Virginia, the Virginia – Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives provides safety training, continuing education, and communications and legislative services to 15 electric cooperatives serving the three-state Mid-Atlantic region.
Representatives of the VMD Association and Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative presented a certificate of honor to Frantz, who also was recognized at a Memorial Day weekend ceremony in New Castle.
“The Unsung Virginian Award honors a citizen, who has not previously been recognized, for services rendered to the Commonwealth without thought of personal gain,” Steven Johnson, Vice President of Communications, said. “Frantz, a Craig County resident, was honored with the award for his work in promoting aviation, as well as conservation, in his community.”
“Through his drive and determination, Lanier Frantz has truly made a difference in the lives of those in Craig County and beyond. Lanier epitomizes the Seventh Cooperative Principle of Concern for Community, and his efforts carry on the tradition of the Unsung Virginian Award,” said Jeff Ahearn, CEO of Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative.
Said Ahearn at the ceremony, “To Lanier Frantz, for his decades of outstanding service, leadership to the community and region, for his role in developing the New Castle International Airport, and for his resolute, enthusiastic unconditional support of the environmental steward of becoming the first farm west of the Blue Ridge Mountain in the state of Wild Life Management Program, for insuring protection of the heritage of Western Virginia through one of the largest easements in the region and for doing so without any expectation of personal gain and for remaining a valued friend to those fortunate enough to know him. Now, the Virginia-Maryland-Delaware Association of Electric Cooperative in conjunction with Craig Botetourt Electric Cooperative hereby recognize Lanier Frantz as the 2021 recipient of the Unsung Virginian Award.”
“Goodness, I’m flattered,” Frantz responded in surprise. “This is incredible. I certainly do thank you.”
“You are a better friend than I knew,” he added as everyone joined in laughing.
Melissa Mattox, a member of the Blue Ridge Soaring Society and a student pilot, noted that many read the Cooperative Living Magazine the Electric Company publishes.
“They had an article about nominating people and your name came to my mind,” she said to Frantz. “I’ve only been here a couple of years, but I’ve seen young people solo an airplane before they have their driver’s license and Kelly went on to be an Air Traffic Controller and other commercial pilots. You have just put so many people on their path and that impressed me. You have earned my respect.”
“I didn’t do all of that you know,” Frantz quickly added. “You are being too generous. Thank you all.”
“Thank you for what you do for the community,” Ahearn quickly responded. “We have a lot in common as my father has an airstrip he lives on, in Eastern North Carolina. He has fly-ins and he inquired about landing here. He’s got a little 172 wingtips for low stall speed.”
“You know he’d be welcome,” Frantz said.
The committee shared, “A Roanoke native, Frantz has been the driving force in bringing aviation to New Castle. In the 1950s, he learned to fly airplanes and gliders, and, in 1960, bought the land that would house the New Castle Airport. During the past 59 years, he has developed the airport and Blue Ridge Soaring Society, the glider club that is housed there.”
Also, for his work in teaching students and flying gliders, he was inducted into the Soaring Hall of Fame in 1986.
“Under his leadership, New Castle has gained worldwide recognition as a great soaring location,” said his daughter, Cole Frantz. “Many of the students at his airport have gone into careers as pilots and air traffic controllers.”
Johnson noted, “Additionally, Frantz was cited for his contributions to land conservancy. He and his wife Thelca have donated more than 1,100 acres in conservation easements in southwest Virginia. In 2000, the Virginia General Assembly approved a resolution commending the Frantz family for its participation in natural resource programs.”
“It’s just remarkable how many lives Lanier has touched,” said Brian Mosier, president and CEO of the VMD Association. “He didn’t do it with any thought of personal gain; he did it because he thought it was the right thing to do and we’re so pleased to be able to add his name to our Unsung Virginians.”
“I’m totally overwhelmed,” Frantz said. “I never expected anything like this.”