Of all the accomplishments of the late Cornelius E. “Cory” and Alice Hartbarger — both near and far — certainly moving to Bedford County was high on their must-do list. The two taught for nearly a decade at The Webb School in Bell Buckle. He taught geography and was athletic director while she served as an English teacher and school musician. After about eight years at the prep school, Alice and Cory moved out of state for other opportunities...
Of all the accomplishments of the late Cornelius E. “Cory” and Alice Hartbarger — both near and far — certainly moving to Bedford County was high on their must-do list. The two taught for nearly a decade at The Webb School in Bell Buckle.
He taught geography and was athletic director while she served as an English teacher and school musician. After about eight years at the prep school, Alice and Cory moved out of state for other opportunities.
They eventually returned to Shelbyville to live out their golden years, simply because they missed their friends here, family says.
Cory, a World War II veteran, passed away Dec. 6, at his son Neil’s home in Asheville, North Carolina, with his family by his side. He was 93.
Cory’s wife Alice Ruth McConaughy Hartbarger preceded him in death on March 31, 2013, a day before her 89th birthday. She had served years ago as First Presbyterian Church in Shelbyville’s choir director.
Local musician Billie Crowell says she remembers Alice’s commitment to local music. She recalls the Bedford Singers, which Alice directed in the 1980s, along with well-known vocalists like Monty Thomas.
“She was an excellent musician in all areas, directing choir, playing the organ and performance,” says Billie. “I loved being around her, because of her sweet spirit. She knew how to get the best from her groups. Cory was always right by her side and as many others have said, he was a great athlete. They were a great couple.”
Family and friends gathered recently to share memories of the Hartbargers. While his children are saddened by the recent loss of the family patriarch, they were glad to share how their parents really did live “a wonderful life.”
Born the youngest of five in Clifton Forge, Virginia, to Vida Tilley Hartbarger and Cornelius “Neil” Hartbarger, Cory was known back home as “Sonny.” He grew up as a highly competitive athlete and musician in Clifton Forge and the neighboring community of Waynesboro.
During World War II, he left school to join the U.S. Navy, serving in the Pacific Theater. After his discharge at the end of the war, he returned home to finish high school.
Following brief stints as a mail carrier, FBI clerk, and a baseball player with farm teams for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Athletics, Cory joined the ranks of the Virginia State Police as a trooper.
Alice was born in 1924, in Stambaugh, Michigan, the eldest of four children of Nathaniel Upham McConaughy, a Presbyterian minister, and Beulah Perrine McConaughy, a public-health nurse.
A pianist from her early teens, Alice was fortunate to sing in 1948 with the Westminster Choir in concert with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, under conductor Bruno Walter. For her master’s project, she conducted a choral setting of Edna St. Vincent-Millay’s “The Ballad of the Harp Weaver.” The piece’s composer, Thomas Scott, attended the performance, according to family.
After receiving her music degree in 1949, Alice took her first sojourn to the South, appearing in the Lost Colony pageant, which was an every-summer production held since 1937 on Roanoke Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She appeared as a colonist that year and often told the children about how later TV star Andy Griffith had starred there as Sir Walter Raleigh.
That fall, Alice began teaching at Fairfax Hall Girls High School and Junior College in Waynesboro. She also became minister of music at Basic Methodist Church there.
The next summer, a church member brought his brother “Sonny,” to choir rehearsal. Family laugh still at this story, mainly because Alice then pronounced the young man, Cornelius “Sonny” Hartbarger, the “rudest man she’d ever met,” mainly because he talked during choir rehearsal.
Ironically, Cory and Alice would go on to date and then marry on Aug. 30, 1951, making their first home in Buchanan, Virginia. During that spring, while still working as a Virginia State Trooper, Cory was said to have escorted Princess (soon to become Queen) Elizabeth of England, on a visit to George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon.
Alice and Cory’s first son, Neil, would be born the following May. He recently discussed with the Times-Gazette his parents and their life achievements, which of course included well-spent time in this area.
Neil says once his folks started their family, Dad was determined then to have a life with “less drama” and eventually handed in his state trooper badge. He then set his visions on becoming a teacher.
Cory attended Northern Michigan University on an athletic work scholarship, becoming a standout athlete, lettering in track and field and eventually served as football team scout. Following graduation in 1955, he was hired into the physical education department at New Trier High School, in Winnetka, Illinois which was the town where second son, Peter, was born.
Several teaching positions took the Hartbargers to Decatur, Illinois, where son, Christopher, was born. They returned eventually back home to Waynesboro, where youngest son, Stephen, was welcomed into the world.
From Waynesboro, it was on to Bell Buckle, where Cory and Alice would teach nearly a decade at The Webb School. An “in memoriam” was recently posted on the school’s website about Cory.
Their next home would be in Lithonia, Georgia, where Cory became a trainer in agent development and certified in life-underwriting programs for Equitable Life Assurance. After he retired from insurance work in 1986, the couple moved to a mountaintop home in Bridgeport, Alabama.
Son, Neil, recalls because of the remarkable friendships they’d established in Tennessee, his parents eventually moved back to Shelbyville, rejoining their beloved First Presbyterian Church community.
Alice’s poor health in later years would eventually require the couple to move to North Carolina to live near family. Alice died on Easter Sunday of 2013, with her beloved family by her side.
Even after losing his wife of 62 years, Cory continued opportunities which afforded him to thrive as a senior. Ever an athlete, he had discovered Senior Games and became a Senior Olympian in his 80s, receiving medals and ribbons in shot put, discus, and javelin until age 90.
On his Facebook page, Cory had stated that his favorite quote was by George Bernard Shaw: “You don’t stop playing, because you grow old. You grow old, because you stopped playing.”
Family says that at the time of his death, the WWII veteran had learned that his second great-grandchild was about to be born. Perhaps that new little one will inherit Alice’s musical talent or maybe inherit Corey’s athleticism?
Only time will tell, says Neil. But one thing’s for sure, Cory and Alice left a legacy for future generations to emulate.
“Everything they did — the music, the caring for young people, the lifelong friendships, even the competition — came from love of God and love of others. They lived a life of service.”
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