It was Law Day. The Liberty Bell Award is presented each year on Law Day to an outstanding citizen who is not a lawyer. In his remarks, Judge Mills explained that the theme for this year is "Law in the 21st Century: Enduring Traditions, Emerging Challenges."
"Interesting enough," he continued, "I think two traits of our recipient for this year's award can be summed up in two phrases. Our recipient was dedicated to preserving traditions and in guiding youth by providing challenges."
Like those gathered for the Law Day presentation, most of you who are reading this column never knew Frank Stone. He liked it that way. Frank never sought recognition or awards.
Frank, David and Elizabeth Stone Barrett are the children of the late Ernest and Helen Stone. Mr. Stone was a lawyer in Canton and Dr. Stone taught art at Cherokee High School for many years. Mr. Stone was a scout leader and Dr. Stone received the Liberty Bell award herself many years ago.
Frank Stone was an Eagle Scout, the father of two children - a daughter and a son who is an Eagle Scout - and grandfather of two children.
Mills described Frank Stone as a "go to" and "can do" man. He knew how to fix what needed fixing and he was a wealth of knowledge of the skills of our forefathers. Except for a very few people, many of those skills have been long forgotten in our modern world.
Frank was demonstrating one of those skills to a troop of Boy Scouts when Judge Mills first met him. "He was immersed in a smelly substance that would turn off many of us." The boys were observing Frank brain tan deer hide.
"Wood was his medium and he knew every kind of wood and what it was good for. He could and did make musical instruments from dulcimers to fiddles or violins and banjos or a fine piece of furniture the old fashioned way."
Working with Scouts was a passion he and Mills shared. Among the stories Judge Mills told during the presentation, was about one of the times Frank took twenty Boy Scouts and their leaders on a trip to Canada for canoeing.
Stone "maintained a caterpillar and other old cantankerous vehicles and pieces of equipment."
On this scout trip, the bus broke down seven trips on the first day. "Frank would merely put on overalls, drag out a piece of canvass and a tool kit and climb under the bus - make a temporary fix, drive to the next town, buy a part and drive on."
On camping trips with the Scouts he demonstrated how to live in the woods. "I have seen him in a cold driving December rain in the Cohutta Wilderness start a warming fire that burned all night when no one thought it was possible."
While the Scouts learned what plants they could eat to survive in the woods, Frank did it. "He could make sassafras tea that was actually good. If you needed aspirin he would introduce you to bitterroot, which contains the active ingredient of aspirin ...
"Frank was a chemist by trade, which always made me worry a little bit when eating his world famous pickled tomatoes and onions that would literally take your breath away - but also drive away mosquitoes."
His many skills of lost arts included bookbinding, lye soap making, blacksmithing, knife making, leather craft and tailoring.
He excelled at wood carving. Judge Mills recalled, "I have seen him sit down without a word with a plain knife and carve a ball in a cage or a chain out of wood." The scouts were fascinated, even those that usually found it hard to keep still and pay attention.
Frank left behind a legacy of preservation. He was involved in design and construction of the Heritage Trek at Woodruff Scout Reservation. It was awarded the Take Pride in America Certificate of Merit presented by First Lady Barbara Bush. He was also instrumental in developing and managing the Living History Village at Reinhardt College.
He was proud of being a descendant of some of the earliest pioneers and settlers in Cherokee County.
Frank and his wife, Carme, founded the Appalachian Heritage Guild. It is dedicated to preserving and demonstrating skills of long ago. They include music and lifestyles of our southern culture.
A great legacy is the role he played in the lives of many children. As Mills said, "I count among those every Scout who ever knew him, all of whom were affected positively by his example and what he did for them and wanted for them. He did not make things easy for the Scouts but wanted them to be challenged.
"There was a little bit of a gruff side to Frank. He could be a little scary to a young Scout who did not know him. He had an endless supply of stories and lore and he would tell them at campfires, some of them spooky. But they learned immediately he cared for them. And I saw him break down in tears at an Eagle ceremony."
Frank Stone is well remembered by those who loved, admired and respected him. Judge Mills aptly described Frank by calling him a Renaissance man.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska and a former county school superintendent.