A dedicated volunteer who works diligently in the background and avoids the spotlight has been selected the 49th individual to earn the Tamaqua area community's highest honor.

Frances J. Stahl, New England Valley, learned today that she has been selected by a panel of community representatives to receive the annual Citizenship Award of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce/TIDE. Stahl will become the second person to earn the award under its new name, the 2012 Joseph M. Plasko Memorial Citizenship Award.

"I'm so happy," said Stahl upon learning of her selection as recipient of the distinction.

The community at large will honor Stahl at a dinner event later this month.

Many say Stahl, a cancer survivor, is an inspiring, unsung community hero who is most deserving of the recognition.

"She works tirelessly to ensure that the less fortunate of all ages are cared for in some way – from volunteering to serve food during the Salvation Army's holiday dinners to collecting eyeglasses for the Lion's Sight program," says Linda Yulanavage, executive director, Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce.

Another says Stahl can be counted on to roll up her sleeves and get the job done. Her enthusiasm is simply contagious.

"Under her leadership, the Tamaqua Lions Club grew not only in members but in public appearance by undertaking the creation of the Pappy Train Shed building project in the summer of 2006," says Christine Verdier, chief of staff, Office of Sen. David G. Argall.

Stahl, the former Frances DeSantis, was born in Carlisle and spent her first few years in Tower City before relocating to Coaldale. She attended Coaldale High School for three years, at which point the Panther Valley jointure was formed. As a result, in 1965, Stahl became part of the first graduating class of Panther Valley High School.

She began teaching at a Head Start Program during summer while still in high school, afterward attending Ford School of Business, Pottsville. She went on to teach at the business school at the age of 19. She continued to work while attending Penn State in Schuylkill Haven and Hazleton.

Stahl married and had two children. When the children were small, she worked part-time at Tuscarora and Locust Lake State Parks, eventually going full time and putting in 22 years with the state parks while also teaching at a vocational-technical school in Frackville.

In 2001, Stahl became the first lady Lion in Tamaqua and served as Lion president for three years. During her presidency, she and others reactivated the Tamaqua Leo Club, the second oldest Leo Club in the world.

Stahl, 64, retired from the state park system in 1997 because of health issues but continued to channel her energy into volunteer work.

She and her husband, Tim, have helped the American Cancer Society for more than two decades.

In their spare time, they have refurbished more than 20 properties, mostly in Tamaqua, and rented or sold most of them.

Stahl believes in living life with passion and pursuing one's goals with vigor.

In fact, at age 60, Stahl decided to follow a lifelong dream – flying. She obtained a pilot's license about three years later and took to the skies.

The Stahls are active in their church, Zion Lutheran Church on Dutch Hill, where Stahl is working on a history book called 'Tamaqua's Mighty Fortress – Zion Church.' While doing research for the book, Stahl discovered that a former pastor, the Rev. F. Peter Muhr, had received the Citizenship award in 1983. The idea that she, too, will receive the same award touches her in a special way.

"I'm in with a good crowd," she says.

Stahl is also an accomplished artist, specializing in oils since she was 8 years old. She has had several showings, resulting in rave reviews over her sense of color and technique.

The Stahls have two children, Timothy M. and SFC Tonia M. Barron, both of whom live in the area, and five grandchildren.

Stahl will receive the coveted award at the 62nd Annual Chamber/TIDE Dinner to be held Wednesday, April 25, at the Tamaqua Community Center.