Long-time Lake Junaluska supporters Frank Stith III and Kathy Geyer McNeil are the 2021 recipients of the Chief Junaluska Award, an honor bestowed annually during Associates Weekend at Lake Junaluska.
Associates Weekend is an annual gathering of charitable supporters of Lake Junaluska, and the award recognizes outstanding service, community involvement and financial support of Lake Junaluska.
The 2021 honorees, Stith and McNeil, are Lake Junaluska residents and charitable supporters who have “worked tirelessly to make Lake Junaluska a place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind and body,” said Bob Bowling in co-presenting the award with his wife, Robin.
A retired Elder of The United Methodist Church, Stith first came to Lake Junaluska 75 years ago when he was 6 years old.
“I caught a fish in the lake that was about 5 inches long,” Stith said. “I used a cane pole. Since then, I have stayed in at least 30 different places at Lake Junaluska Assembly, either on vacation or for the Western North Carolina Annual Conference.”
His family bought a vacation house at Lake Junaluska in 1983 and later built a retirement home at the lake that they moved into in 2006. His service has included involvement with the committee to build a clubhouse at the Lake Junaluska Golf Course and service on the executive committee for the Peace Conference for nine of the 10 conferences held at Lake Junaluska. He also served for four years on the executive committee of the Junaluska Associates as the project chair and on the committee that led to the formation of the Columbarium at Memorial Chapel. For nearly a decade, he has also fulfilled a vital community communications role sending email updates - sometimes multiple updates a day - via the Junaluskans Email Service.
His work helps to spread the news of Lake Junaluska and to keep people connected to this very special place, said Robin Bowling.
“With all these connections, you can understand what an honor it is to be recognized with this award,” said Stith. “Lake Junaluska is in my blood.”
McNeil also has a long connection to Lake Junaluska. Her father was a Methodist minister, and her family used to vacation at Lake Junaluska. As early as the 1960s, they enjoyed the annual Independence Day Celebrations at the lake and she even performed music at the lake as a youth. Over the years, she has shared her musical talents as organist at Lake Junaluska, including playing piano or organ for Glenn Draper on Sundays when needed, and as associate director and accompanist for the Lake Junaluska Singers. In addition, she serves as director of music and worship arts and organist at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville and director of the Haywood Choral Society. She also offers online organ concerts and Hymn Sings from Home and is the musician for monthly vespers.
McNeil has let her fingers “dance across the ivories of pianos and organs as she let the sound of great music bless the hearts and souls of many, many people,” said Bob Bowling.
McNeil said she is very honored to be recognized with the award.
“My parents, Roger and Nancy Geyer, received the award 21 years ago, and I realized they were the same age then as I am now,” said McNeil. “One of the best decisions I ever made was to move to Lake Junaluska, where there have been so many opportunities here and within the community to share my musical talents with wonderful, supportive, loving and talented individuals.”
To learn more about Lake Junaluska Associates, individuals or households who make an annual charitable gift of $250 or more towards the mission and ministry of Lake Junaluska, visit lakejunaluska.com/associates.
Lake Junaluska is a place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind and body. For more information about Lake Junaluska, visit lakejunaluska.com.
Lake Junaluska Communications