By Debbie Adams
Vinton’s beloved educator Frank Stone celebrated his 90 th birthday last week with a luncheon at
Montano’s attended by friends, former colleagues, and family (his wife, Janine, daughter
Jennifer Hofman, and a great-grandson). Many who attended were part of the “Hardy Road
Gang” who worked together at Hardy Road Elementary school (now W.E. Cundiff) while he was
Vinton Mayor Brad Grose presented Stone with a Proclamation from the Town of Vinton
recognizing him for his devotion to the community, especially its children.
Stone has touched the lives of most everyone who grew up in Vinton, serving as principal of
Roland E. Cook for one year (1959-1960), East Vinton (now Herman L. Horn) until 1972, and
Hardy Road (now W.E. Cundiff) Elementary Schools from 1972 when it first opened through his
retirement in 1988.
He began his teaching career in 1956 at Fort Lewis Elementary in Salem. He had graduated from
Lynchburg College, planning a career in teaching high school history. However, he visited an
elementary school and decided that was his true calling.
He met his wife at Lynchburg College when they noticed each other across the library and were
introduced by a mutual friend, who described Stone as “a sterling fellow.” They married in 1956
and raised four children, Ron, Keith, Jennifer, and Leslie, and will celebrate their 67 th
anniversary in August.
His first assignment as principal (an unrequested, not-applied-for assignment) was at Bent
Mountain Elementary, where he served as a teaching principal – doing the duties of both. (Stone
never applied for a position as principal; he was noticed for his skills, chosen, and assigned by
those in charge with confidence in his abilities.)
The school had about 50 students and three teachers in grades 1-7. His wife also taught there. In
the summers, they ran a novelty shop as a money-making venture – teachers were not paid in the
summer months back then.
At Hardy Road Elementary (W.E. Cundiff) Stone supervised a staff of over 50 teachers and
employees, serving 900 students, sometimes with 42 or 43 students in a classroom.
Hardy Road Elementary was built in the early ’70s due to rapid growth in population in the
Vinton area. When Hardy Road/Cundiff reached a population of over 900, Bonsack Elementary
Stone trained two future Roanoke County school superintendents – Deanna Gordon (his assistant
principal) and Lorraine Lange (one of his teachers) while he was at Hardy Road. When Gordon
moved up, Lange became his assistant principal. He also trained Deedie Kagey, who became
principal at Bonsack Elementary.
After his retirement, he taught for three years at Roanoke College.
Stone and his wife continued as business owners throughout their lives. For years they operated a
booth at Olde Mill Primitives in Stewartsville, and currently own and operate Cornerstone
Antiques in downtown Vinton.
He served at one time as president of the Vinton Chamber of Commerce while he was principal
at Hardy Road Elementary.
Stone is often referred to by those who have been fortunate enough to know and work with him
as “the kindest man they have ever met. At one wedding anniversary party, his children noted
that he was the “same fine man at home that he was at school – a dedicated father and husband.”
His son Ron said on that occasion that his father was the same kind of father as he was a
principal – fair, intelligent, with a great sense of humor, who is never flustered, “just a good,
good person.” Daughter Jenny Hofman says he was “also the best father ever.”
His teachers say he never “got ruffled,” even with class sizes of over 40 students. Back in the
days of corporal punishment, he never owned a paddle. Children looked forward to being sent to
the office to see him and show off their work.
Ethel Vogt, (who coordinated the 90th birthday celebration) was secretary at Hardy Road
Elementary from its opening, just 19, and fresh out of high school when she began working with
“Mr. Stone mentored all of us,” said Vogt. “He taught us to be kind to others, to be empathetic,
to put others first. He was very well-respected, and humble, and knew how to take care of
people. At our first faculty meeting he said that this would be a one staff school – there would be
no differences between administrators, teachers, custodians, office staff, aides – we were all
working together for the students. And each student was just as important as the next to him. He
was more than a principal or teacher; he was a substitute parent. He was one of a kind.”
Stone claims it was “because I was surrounded by great people who made me look good.”
Kathryn Sowers, executive assistant for the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce, began working
for Stone straight out of college.
“He was the best boss I ever had,” Sowers says. “He always made you feel you were worthy, that
you knew what you were doing, and you wanted to do the best you could. He was fair, never
raised his voice and seemed to know what was going on all around him. I’m sure that headed off
a lot of what could have been issues.
“He was also the president of the Chamber of Commerce when I worked there, way back when,
and when I went back to work for Roanoke County after my son was born, he was my boss for a
while again. I judge every boss I have had against him. I wish him a very, very Happy Birthday
and many more.”
Stone summed up his 90 years with, “There was never a day I didn’t enjoy. It’s been a great