Mary Ann Gober and Jeff Ahearn of Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative flank Unsung Virginian Award winner Lanier Frantz.

A Craig County resident is the 2021 recipient of the Unsung Virginian Award for his work in promoting aviation, as well as conservation, in his community.

Lanier Frantz of New Castle received the award, bestowed annually since 1968 by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives. The Unsung Virginian Award honors a citizen, who has not previously been recognized, for services rendered to the Commonwealth without thought of personal gain.

“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.

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.

“I’m totally overwhelmed,” Frantz said. “I never expected anything like this.”

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.

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.

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.”