Members and directors of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce joined the rest of the Tamaqua area community in expressing the loss of a friend, director and past-president last week.

The board of directors expressed a desire to honor the dedication and contributions that had been made to the chamber and to the entire community by former chamber President Joe Plasko.

"Through Joe's work as a journalist for the TIMES NEWS, he shared his dedication to the work of the chamber and his love of the Tamaqua area," said Linda Yulanavage, executive director. "We all feel a deep sense of loss".

"The chamber wanted to create a living memorial so that Joe would remain a part of the organization and the community," said Todd Miller, chamber president. "So, today we are pleased to announce the creation of several living memorials in Joe's honor."

One of the responsibilities of the chamber is to chair the Citizenship Award Selection Committee meeting, comprised of representatives from the Ministerium Association, community organizations, the school district and the community at large.

Plasko served as chair of this committee for many years. He was passionate about the recognition of a citizen volunteer and was dedicated to the guidelines and the process that had been established for the award many years ago, said Yulanavage.

The chair of the committee does not participate in the voting process, but serves as a facilitator for the selection, keeping the committee true to the established guidelines.

This year's Citizenship Committee meeting was filled with discussions of the passionate integrity Plasko always brought to the selection process.

As a result of that discussion, and as a way to honor his dedication to the award itself, the committee suggested and the chamber agreed to rename this award in his memory.

The award will now be known as the Joseph M. Plasko Memorial Citizenship Award.

This year's winner will be announced shortly and will be honored at the 61st Annual Community Dinner on April 27, to be held at the Tamaqua Community Center.

In addition, the chamber board of directors today announced the creation of the Joseph M. Plasko Award, which will be presented to a 2011 graduate at both Tamaqua Area High School and Marian Catholic High School, who will be pursuing a career in journalism.