"Stick to your principles and random acts of kindness."

Those were two life lessons offered by Fran Stahl, Lewistown Valley, to a full audience of community members, family and friends during the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce's 62nd annual citizenship award. Stahl received the honor, now called the Joseph M. Plasko Memorial Citizenship Award, last night at the Tamaqua Community Center.

She was described by Rev. Jeffrey Kistler as having community virtue and non-stop hospitality.

Stahl, 64, who retired in 1997 after working over 20 years for the state park system, didn't let health issues prevent her from channeling her energy into volunteer work. She said that time was one of the most precious gifts given to her.

Stahl had been diagnosed with numerous health conditions, ranging from a brain tumor and hearing problems to cancer. She described how she was able to overcome those stressful times.

"Always be kind to yourself", she said, recalling that she would often stop at Red Lobster after doctor appointments.

She jokingly added that "doctors aren't always right."

A member of numerous community and area organizations, Stahl also described the importance of those who display random acts of kindness, such as paying for cars behind her on the turnpike.

In describing the various challenges she has overcome in life, Stahl told of the satisfaction of earning her pilot's license.

Four years ago, she decided to follow a lifelong dream of flying. After only three years of training and unexpected health issues, she earned her pilot's license and was quick to take to the skies. She credited Byron Arner, her certified flight instructor, for building her confidence level.

"Time is one of life's most precious gifts," said Stahl.

She also spoke of Sally Nuemann, a long time friend who sent flowers to her after hearing of the citizenship award.

"Neumann passed away shortly after sending me these flowers," Stahl told the audience.

Stahl also recalled the life's lessons she received from various instructors and students while teaching shorthand, business law, vocabulary and letter writing at age 19. The experience taught her persistence.

"Stick to it and it will come to you," she said.

Linda Yulanavage, executive director of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce, also spoke of Stahl's volunteer spirit.

"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," Yulanavage said.

Rep. Jerry Knowles and Sen. Dave Argall, who provided state citations to Stahl, also commented about her service to the community.

Knowles spoke of how her life was an inspiration, while Argall pointed out how Stahl has put her heart and soul into her charity work.

Sheri Beltz, president of the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce, thanked dinner organizers Eileen Barron and Yulanavage and all who sponsored and helped put the event together.

Stahl ended her speech with some charitable advice: "It's not so much the hand you've been dealt, it's how you play the cards," she said.