Alice Ruth McConaughy Hartbarger
SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Alice Ruth McConaughy Hartbarger, a former Escanaba High School teacher, died Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, a day before her 89th birthday.
Born in 1924 in Stambaugh, she soon moved to nearby Iron Mountain, when her father, Nathaniel Upham McConaughy, was minister at the Presbyterian church. Her mother, Beulah Perrine McConaughy, was a public health nurse. Alice served as church pianist from her early teens.
Alice attended Park College in Parkville, Mo., taught for two years in Michigan, and then pursued a masters in choral music at Westminster Choir College.
During graduate school, in 1948 she sang at Carnegie Hall with the Westminster College Choir, in concert with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Bruno Walter.
In 1949, she sang and acted in the Lost Colony pageant on Roanoke Island in North Carolina, with Andy Griffith starring as Sir Walter Raleigh. The next year she met her husband, Cory Hartbarger – then known as “Sonny” – while she was minister of music at Basic Methodist Church in Waynesboro, Va.
They married in 1951 and established their home in Alexandria, Va. Alice directed the choir at a church in nearby Arlington, where her husband was stationed as a state police officer, until a transfer took them to Buchanan, Va., where their first child, Neil, was born.
They soon moved back to Michigan, so that Cory could pursue a degree at Northern Michigan University. During his three college years, Alice taught music in the studio and as music director at Escanaba High School.
They moved to Winnetka, Ill., to teach. Their second son, Peter, was born there. They were soon recruited to the First Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Ill., Alice as minister of music and Cory as director of Christian education. Three years later their third son, Chris, was born.
But homesickness drew Cory back to Waynesboro, Va. Again, Alice played the organ in Waynesboro’s First Presbyterian Church. But just as the youngest family member, fourth son Steve, was born, they were recruited again, this time to the Webb School, in Bell Buckle, Tenn., Cory to run the physical education program and Alice to teach music and literature. Her Webb Glee Club traveled around the Tennessee-Alabama area, giving concerts at other private schools.
After more than eight years at Webb, Alice went on to teach at Wheel Elementary School, before the family moved once more, to the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia, Ga. While in Lithonia she sang with the internationally renowned Robert Shaw Chorale, performing in Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony. She taught in the Rockdale County schools until her retirement. In 1986 the Rockdale County Association of Educators named her Teacher of the Year.
After retirement, Alice and Cory lived for a while on a mountaintop outside of Bridgeport, Ala., with a view of three states. Alice continued directing area choirs, sometimes at two churches at the same time. In 2005, they moved back to Shelbyville, Tenn., to be closer to the many friends they had made during their Webb School years. Alice continued participating in music at the First Presbyterian Church of Shelbyville.
About a year ago, middle son Chris convinced them to move to an assisted-living facility near him and his wife and daughters in the picturesque Black Mountain area of North Carolina. Alice was well loved among the nurses and staff at the Laurels.
Alice died peacefully, with her husband and son, Chris, at her side. She remains in the hearts of many, including Cory, Neil, Peter, Chris, Steve; daughters-in-law, Juanita, Legar, Teri, Linda, and Kim; grandchildren, Errol, Emily, Loryn, and Colleen; her brother, Jeff McConaughy; and sister, Mary Esther Cumberland and her husband Gerry; numerous nieces and nephews, legions of friends, and the thousands of children she taught and loved.
A memorial will be celebrated at the Shelbyville, Tenn., Presbyterian Church on Saturday, April 27, at 11 a.m. The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be sent to the national Presbyterian Women’s organization.