Remembering Joe Eblen
T his Friday will mark the 5th anniversary of the passing of our friend and co-founder of Eblen Charities Joe Eblen. In honor of his memory we are reprinting the article that was printed in Meeting the Challenge the Monday after his death.
REMEMBERING JOE PHILANTHROPIST LEAVES LEGACY OF HELPING OTHERS
“He has lived a beautiful life, and has left a beautiful field.
He has sacrificed the hour to give service for all time.
He has entered the company of the great and with them he will be remembered forever.” Lemass Memorial – Dublin, Ireland
Few that have graced our community that has had the impact of Joe Eblen.
For more than seven decades, through his work in the business, education, sports, and philanthropic communities, Joe has left an indelible mark that has touched countless lives and has eased the burden of so many.
Joe passed away peacefully last Saturday at home with his family by his side. He was in his 88th year.
Known for widely for his successful Biltmore Oil Company, Eblen Short Stop Stores, his work as a teacher, coach, and referee, and the establishment of the Eblen Charities and the Eblen Center for Social Enterprise, Joe spent his nearly every aspect of his life reaching out to others.
The fifth of seven children , Joe was born on June 2, 1925 in Roane County, Tennessee. Working on his family’s farm almost from the time he could walk, Joe and his five sisters and one brother learned through the years of the Great Depression the responsibility and value of everyone taking care of each other and those less fortunate.
Joe began his education studying from first through eighth grade in a small one room school house and then attended Kingston High School where he graduated as a star athlete and scholar.
He entered the Navy to serve his country during World War II and attended aviation candidate school and officer’ training at Emory, Columbia, and Princeton Universities.
Upon his discharge enrolled at the University of Tennessee earning a Bachelor of Science in education and a Masters of Education at Vanderbilt University.
In 1946, Joe married and settled in Asheville, the hometown of his bride, Roberta Simmons Eblen, and he began teaching at Hall Fletcher Junior High School where he began his coaching career with the Mighty Mites Football team as well as basketball and baseball.
Although Joe received many honors none meant more to him than the title “coach,” which is still used by many who knew him best in that capacity.
In addition to his duties in the classroom and on the field he began assisting his father-in-law, Paul Simmons, at Biltmore Oil Company. and then left teaching to head the business after Mr. Simmons passed away.
Joe was widely recognized for achievements in community service and athletics.
In addition to co-founding and extensive extensive work with Eblen Charities, he served on the boards of RiverLink, the Salvation Army, Asheville Community Theater, and many others.
Awards bestowed on Joe include: the Asheville Living Treasures, the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the Mythical Realm of Rhododendron Royal Brigade of Guards, and induction into the WNC Sports Hall of Fame, and the North Carolina Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
In 2011 the community honored Joe with one of the highest honors imaginable by the naming a new
school the Joe P. Eblen Intermediate School.
He is survived by Roberta (Bobbie), his wife of 67 years,
daughters, Dr. Anna Eblen and husband Rick Popish, Margie Eblen, son, Rock Eblen with partner Kristalyn Bunyan, and daughter Jennie Eblen and husband Rick Perkins.
Joe is also survived by seven grandchildren: Mario Popish and partner Mia Edidin, Amanda Barnard and husband Chad, Dr. James Perkins, Jewel Tavener and husband Matt, Maggie Perkins, Sam Goff and husband Steven, and Patrick Perkins; seven great grandchildren: Laela Edidin, Evan, Max and Juliet Barnard, Emma Goff, Evie and Owen Tavener, as well as sisters Francis Roberts, June Murray, and Betty Westmoreland.
“The legacy that Joe left behind for all of us is just the beginning of our service to the community.” states Bill Murdock, executive director of Eblen Charities.” There is still so much more to do and so many more families that are dealing with difficult times. I can’t remember many conversations that I had with Joe about the work of the Charities that he didn’t tell me to “Keep it Buzzing”. That was his way of telling me to keep it going, keep moving forward, keep finding ways to help those who call upon us for assistance. And that is just what we will do…keep it buzzing.”