Fall 2012

Mitzi TessierMitzi Tessier

Mitzi Tessier's contributions to the Asheville and Buncombe County are multi-faceted.  She has been a teacher of children with special needs, a regional educator of our cultural heritage, a field adviser for the Pisgah Girl Scouts Council, a ceramics arts teacher, an expert dancer and team sponsor of clogging, big circle and square dancing, a historian and an author of two books.  Through her many endeavors, she has been a true advocate for education and preservation of our unique mountain heritage.

Initially, Mitzi Tessier guided hundreds of young girls involved in Girl Scouts through camps and compelling programs across Buncombe County.  From scouting, Mitzi became a teacher at Erwin High School and became the faculty sponsor of the clogging team.  For years she led student teams across the nation to compete and display this unique part of our Appalachian heritage.  Mitzi has made history come to life as she shares stories of area history and culture with children of all ages.

In the 1970's, Mitzi worked with her husband Jack Tessier to open Mama T's music pavilion that provided local residents and area visitors evenings of mountain square dancing and clogging with local bands.  Many members of the community still fondly remember their happy times spent at Mama T's.

Mistzi Tessier has always had a passion for history and culture.  Working with the Preservation Society and the Historic Resources Commission, she wrote The Pictorial History of Asheville, followed by another pictorial history, The State of Buncombe.  Mitzi was one of the original group that planned and implemented the creation of Asheville's "Urban Trail".  Today, Mitzi is revered as one of our areas leading historians.

Mitzi is also considered to be an outstanding regional educator, sharing her vast knowledge at UNCA's College for Seniors (now OLLI), Montreat's Road Scholar program, Smithsonian Tours of Asheville and the Elderhostel program.  She still enlightens others about our region's rich and colorful history with audiences of all ages.

Joe Eblen

Joe Eblen

Joe Eblen has provided many years of service to the Asheville/Buncombe County community.  He has been a teacher, coach, referee, WWII serviceman, business entrepreneur, and extraordinary philanthropist and a devoted husband and father.  The Eblen name i s recognized by many people int Western North Carolina from two aspects-fuel and charitable causes.  In the 1950's, Joe joined his father-in-law in the family business, Biltmore Oil and in the 1980's under Joe's direction, further diversified the family business with the establishment of the Eblen Short Stop Stores.  Despite many changes in the industry, the Eblen businesses have persevered due to Joe's hard work and determination.  These enterprises combine state-of-the-art technology and equipment with an old fashioned family "good neighbor" philosophy.  Their slogan "We want to be a warm friend of yours" is at the core of their success.

The work of Eblen Charities began in the 1990's with a golf tournament fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis.  Joe discovered that there were no organizations in Western North Carolina that assisted individuals and families living with illness or disability regardless of income.  Mr. Eblen's solution was to set up an organization of his own, thus Eblen Charities was born.  In 1991, a yard sale raised monies for his new organization and in the first year assisted 300 families.  From this humble start, Eblen Charities blossomed into one of the largest charitable organizations in North Carolina, with over 70 programs helping thousands of Western North Carolina families.

Joe Eblen has a passion for sports.  He has over 70 years of refereeing and in 1997 was inducted in the Western North Carolina Hall of Fame and in 1999 was awarded the Distinguished Official Award by the NFOA for grateful appreciation, outstanding service and unselfish devotion to the interscholastic athletics.  Joe also served with various other business and community organizations, such as a charter member and board member of the First Commercial Band (RBC Centura). He served on the boards of the Asheville Community Theater and the Asheville Symphony and assisted with the Salvation Army and the Boys and Girls Clubs.  Joe continues to serve the community and inspires others with his warm humanitarian approach to life.

John Bridges

John Bridges

John Bridges' life has taken on many roles. He began his professional career in New York City, working for the Steinway Company.  Upon the death of his father, John returned to Asheville and gained employment with the library.  He retired from the Asheville Buncombe County Library system in 1985 after a 29 year career.  He served as Head of the Exhibition Room in the Old Pack Library, served as the Director of Community Activities and in 2011, the children's reading room at Pack Memorial Library was named in his honor.  Working with the Friends of the Library, he established music, film and educational lecture programs.  Through his guidance and vision, the libraries first phonograph record collection, film and book programs for children and the educational film services were chartered.  John extended his expertise to the community by speaking and teaching programs to all ages.

He has also served as an educator and contributor at the NC Center for Creative Retirement, now the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UNC Asheville.  From it's inception in 1988, John assisted in planning the programs and he taught over 14 courses in art history, dramatic literature and film analysis.  John Bridges has been described as the go-to expert for all things art and music.  He enjoyed a 40 year career on the Asheville Community Theater stage performing in over 60 productions and more than 15 productions at UNCA.  John also undertook a 30 year run of "Tea and Symphony", a program he initiated on behalf of the Asheville Symphony.  He is also a talented writer.  He has written many Playbills for ACT, production reviews and was the Music Reviewer for the Asheville Citizen Times from 1968-1996.  He is an avid member and supporter of performing music organizations such as the Asheville Symphony, the Asheville Chamber Music Society and the Asheville community Concert Association (Asheville Bravo Concerts).  John Bridges has shared his love of the library, music, drama and the visual arts with over three generations of our community and continues to inspire others with his vast knowledge and expertise.