Blanche Embler Starnes, 103, passed away Saturday, July 29, 2017, at the Aston Park Health Care Center.
Blanche was a daughter of the late David Clarence and Josephine Vess Embler. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Glenn Starnes, who died in 2003; her sisters, Irene Tallevast and Phyllis Queen and her brothers, James Embler, David C. Embler, Jr., and William J. Embler.
A McDowell Co. native, Blanche spent her infancy, childhood and early teen years in Winston-Salem before moving to Spring Lake, NJ. She received her education in the schools of Winston-Salem and Ocean Grove, NJ, and the Westminster Choir College, Princeton, NJ, where she majored in church music.
She lived her adult life in Asheville, where she served as Minister of Music at Calvary Baptist Church for 13 years. During her time at Calvary, she met and married Baptist layman and choir soloist, Glenn Starnes and they enjoyed 66 years of marriage, during which her husband was always supportive of her work. She later joined the staff of Grace Baptist Church, where she served as Minister of Music for 32 years before retiring on December 31, 1979. The members of Grace Church conferred the title "Minister of Music Emeritus" upon her in 1989.
She was active in the Asheville Music Club and served as counselor to the Etta Handte Blanchard Junior Music Club in the early days of both organizations. Always involved in church music in the Buncombe Baptist Association, she was the organizer and coordinator of Messiah presentations for many years. On the state level, she served as Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina Baptist Ministers of Music Conference and as guest conductor and clinician for seven seasons at the Caswell Assembly Music Week, Fort Caswell, NC.
An activist for children's choirs, she pioneered in the Graded Choir Program for Baptist Churches in North Carolina. Also, as an ardent promoter of the complete church choir program she worked diligently in all age groups, preschool through adult. She believed in better church music through a trained and dedicated leadership. The theme of her ministry was "Church music to the Glory of God and to proclaiming the Gospel of Christ's Redeeming Grace."
Mrs. Starnes is survived by her daughter, Terrie Starnes Groce and husband H. Dale Groce, of Asheville; granddaughter, Mary Kristina Groce Brown and husband Ben, of Lawrenceville, GA; great-grandson, William Dale Brown, of Lawrenceville; and several nieces and nephews.
The memorial service and celebration of Mrs. Starnes' life will be held at Grace Baptist Church on Saturday, August 19, 2017 at 2:00 p.m., with the Rev. Dr. J. Derrill Smith officiating. A reception will follow in the church fellowship hall.
Her family will be forever grateful to her church family and friends for their love and visits. They also acknowledge with gratitude the kind and compassionate care provided by the wonderful team at Aston Park Health Care Center. Their attentive assistance eased her final years.
Memorials may be made to Grace Baptist Church, 718 Haywood Rd., Asheville, NC 28806 or to the Aston Park Employee Appreciation Fund, 380 Brevard Road, Asheville, NC 28806.