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Asheville - Joe Paul Eblen, age 87, prominent Western North Carolina philanthropist and community leader, passed away peacefully at home on May 11, 2013. He is best known for his service to Eblen Charities, his career as a successful businessman with Biltmore Oil Company/Eblen Short Stop Stores, and his early work as a coach and teacher, exemplifying his lifelong commitment to athletics, education, and refereeing.
Born to Myra and Fred Eblen on June 2, 1925 in Roane County, Tennessee, he was the fifth child in a family of five sisters and one brother. Joe felt fortunate to grow up on the Eblen farm, where during the Depression everybody pitched in to the best of their ability and learned to take care of family and community. From first through eighth grade, he studied in a one-room school house and later graduated as a star athlete and scholar from Kingston High School. During WWII, he served in the U.S. Navy, attending aviation candidate school and officer' training at Emory, Columbia, and Princeton. As a GI Bill student after the war, he received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee and his Masters of Education from Vanderbilt.
In 1946, Joe married and settled in Asheville, the hometown of his bride, Roberta Simmons Eblen, and he began teaching at Hall Fletcher. He received many honors in his life, and he enjoyed none more than the title "coach," still used by many who knew him best in that capacity. He was a mentor and role model for young people as well as a valued colleague. 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.
The Eblen family deeply appreciated Joe's many honors from local, state, and regional organizations. He was widely recognized for achievements in community service and athletics. In addition to extensive work with Eblen Charities, he served on the boards of RiverLink, the Salvation Army, Asheville Community Theater, and many others. Among recent awards were 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. He was especially pleased by the naming of 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; 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.
Out of respect for the family, it is requested that only family and close family friends attend the private funeral services at Grace Episcopal Church at 11:00 AM Tuesday. Some immediate family members will be available for greeting friends at the church altar one half hour before the service begins. Other friends are invited to attend the graveside service at Lewis Memorial Park at noon Tuesday and some immediate family members will be available to greet friends after the service.
The family thanks CarePartners Hospice nursing personnel and other staff for their wonderful care and gentle support during this difficult time.
Memorials may be made to Eblen Charities, 50 Westgate Parkway, Asheville, NC 28806.
The family will also welcome messages on-line at www.grocefuneralhome.com, www.Facebook.com/GroceFH, or at Eblen Charities.
Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times on May 12, 2013