Editorial Asheville Citizen-Times May 14, 2013
What do you say about a man who gave much of his time and much of his money making his community a better place to live? Here’s what some people said about Joe Eblen, who died Saturday at age 87:
“He’s touched countless lives, and he eased the burden of so many in our community. It’s certainly a very sad time.” — Bill Murdock, executive director of Eblen Charities.
“He was just a great individual. He came along at a great time and influenced thousands of people’s lives in a positive way, and Asheville is better off. Whether you knew him or not, it’s a loss for all of us.” — longtime friend Bill Waddell.
“I believe that he was one of the most humble heroes I have ever known. His influence through Eblen programs such as the Graduation Initiative has been life-changing for so many of our students.” — Tony Baldwin, Buncombe County schools superintendent.
“I can honestly think of no other person who gave more of himself and did more for the people of this region, a giant whose legacy and charity will live on, honoring as good a man as I ever had the pleasure to know and love.” — Keith Jarrett, Citizen-Times senior writer.
Joe Eblen made his money with Biltmore Oil Co./Eblen Short Stop stores. But that is only a part of who he was. He made his mark in the community with a wide range of charities as well as his support for youth athletics. He created the Eblen Foundation in 1991 to help families of children with chronic illnesses. He later expanded to include the Eblen Energy Project, Eblen Emergency Assistance Program, Eblen Medical Assistance Program, and the Eblen Children’s Charities. His goal was quite simply to help out where needed, without worrying about boundaries or rules. “Our guidelines are whatever the people who contact us might need and figuring out how we can help,“ Murdock said. He recalls the experience of a man whose daughter suffered from cystic fibrosis. The man could not afford the gasoline and motel to take his daughter to Duke for treatment. The CF Foundation told Murdock its focus was on research so that one day this family wouldn’t have to worry. “And I said, ‘Well, what about tomorrow, when this family can’t get their daughter to the hospital?’” Murdock called Eblen, who put up the money for the trip.
The Verizon Wireless/Brad Johnson Celebrity Golf Tournament combines Eblen’s two great loves. It is a major athletic event — three days and 60 teams, including the Super Bowl-winning quarterback whose name it bears. And it raises money for Eblen Charities. The fact that the tournament will continue underscores an important point: Joe Eblen may gone, but his good works will continue.“His legacy and the work that’s been established will continue, thanks to him and his kindness and his family as well,” Murdock said. “Eblen Charities will continue to touch those less fortunate in our community. Every community should be so fortunate.” Well-put.