The legacy of a deceased local journalist and Pencor employee who supported education, arts and athletics in the Tamaqua Area School District will be honored in perpetuity through a scholarship bearing his name.
Pencor, Inc., publisher of the TIMES NEWS, has donated $1,200 to launch the Joseph M. Plasko Scholar-Athlete Fund through the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation. Plasko served as TIMES NEWS Tamaqua bureau chief and passed away unexpectedly March 22, just one week after his 50th birthday.
In an announcement made Thursday, Robert A. Miller, III, foundation president, said the foundation's move in setting up the fund is meant to honor the contributions made by Plasko to local education and athletics, and for his unwavering support of the goals of the foundation.
The Blue Raider Foundation is a 501(c) 3 corporation that supports, promotes, sponsors and carries out educational, scientific and charitable activities and objectives related to the school district.
"We just can't say enough about Joe's cooperation," said Miller, who recalled Plasko's enthusiasm in helping to spread the word back in 2009, and afterward, as the foundation was set up and launched.
The Pencor donation will allow for annual scholarships to be presented to a male and female scholar-athlete selected by the school district. The scholarships will be presented during the Tamaqua Area High School Student Achievement Dinner.
According to Walter Kruczek, foundation vice president and personal friend of Plasko, the Pencor donation has prompted a former Tamaqua Area High School scholar-athlete to step forward and make a donation to the fund, which foundation organizers hope is the start of a trend.
"We're hoping to hear from past scholar-athletes," said Kruczek, who worked side-by-side with Plasko many years ago in broadcasting youth baseball games. The two enjoyed sharing their passion for sports. When covering sporting events in State College, Plasko often joined Kruczek's Penn State tailgate parties, with the discussion invariably turning to Tamaqua area sports.
Presenting the check on behalf of Pencor was TN Managing Sports Editor Ed Hedes, who worked with Plasko for 28 years.
"He started as a correspondent and came on full-time in 1983," recalled Hedes, who said Plasko had a winning personality. "Joe was great. Nobody I've ever worked with ever had a bad word to say about him." In fact, before accepting the role as TN Tamaqua bureau chief, Plasko wanted to be sure the new responsibilities wouldn't affect his ability to continue to cover Tamaqua sports, explained Hedes.
"He was the backbone of not just our anthracite football coverage, but track and field, and wrestling, too," added Hedes.
Echoing sentiments expressed in March, TN Tamaqua office manager Kathy Kunkel said a TAHS scholarship named for Plasko is a perfect fit.
"Everyone who knew Joe was well aware of his love for all things connected to Tamaqua sports. We teased that he bled blue and white. This is the most fitting tribute possible."
Kruczek said tax deductible donations to augment the new scholarship fund are welcome and can be made to: Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation, 109 West Broad St., Tamaqua, Pa. 18252. The address is the law offices of Bowe, Lisella & Bowe. Attorney Jeffrey P. Bowe serves as foundation secretary. Michael W. Fegley is treasurer and James R. Zigmant is member-at-large.
The foundation is privately established to assist the Tamaqua Area School District in funding projects that fall outside of the school district budget. Acting autonomously, the foundation enlists individuals, corporations and foundations in charitable resource raising activities to assist students to achieve their maximum potential.
No tax dollars are involved with the foundation.
The group is intended to supplement the district and not replace other fundraising organizations, such as athletic and band boosters. It is also not an affiliate of the school board or the district's administration but operates independently of them.
Board members of the foundation meet monthly.