Joseph Avery “Joe” Meigs of Cullowhee, age 77, passed away June 6, 2019, at the John F. Keever Solace Center in Asheville after an extended period of declining health. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Carolyn Beardsley Meigs; his sons, Tim Meigs (Julie), Ted Meigs (Karen) and Dan Meigs (Yovita); a sister, Mary Wise (Otis); and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Rev. Paul Meigs and Margaret Beall Meigs; sister Jane Schaaf (James); and brother Thomas Meigs (Barbara).
Joe Meigs was a teacher, athlete, scholar, artist, author, musician and do-it-yourselfer in countless ways – a true Renaissance man. He was born in Atlanta, Ga., on July 16, 1941, then grew up in Berkeley, Calif., before moving to Jacksonville, Fla., mid-way through high school, where he met the love of his life, Carolyn, over 60 years ago. As the city’s basketball scoring champion and a Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-Star selection, he earned a basketball scholarship to the University of Florida where he played on the Gators’ varsity team before subsequently earning BA, MA and PhD degrees in English. Prior to graduate school, he taught high school English and coached basketball in Neptune Beach, Fla.
In 1970, Meigs joined the faculty of Western Carolina University’s English department, where he taught until his retirement in 2005 with standing as Professor Emeritus. While at WCU, he directed the University Honors Program, helped establish an Honors residence hall and film club, coached the men’s varsity tennis and golf teams, gave numerous presentations at conferences, and taught a variety of popular courses that included Renaissance Literature, Shakespeare and Film as Literature. He received multiple teaching awards and inspired thousands of students while sharpening their skills in writing, reading and critical analysis. After retirement, he undertook a second career as an author (publishing two novels and a collection of short stories) and award-winning artist, intensifying his efforts toward his lifelong love of painting. He displayed and sold his art and photographs frequently at festivals, street fairs and craft shows in Western North Carolina, including Mountain Heritage Day. He served on the board of the Jackson County Arts Council, co-chaired Gallery One in Sylva, was a member and past president of the Visual Arts Association, and a member of Dogwood Crafters. During his 49 years in Cullowhee, he found time for many additional hobbies and activities including movies, reading, restoration of early Datsun Z-cars, gardening, guitar, piano, choir, basketball, running, snow skiing, tennis and golf.
Joe Meigs was an avid supporter of education, animal welfare and the arts. He volunteered as a leader in Boy Scouts Troop 914, served as a reader for preschool classes, and donated paintings and photographs to various causes in WNC. He supported Asheville Symphony Youth Orchestra, Girl Up (AC Reynolds High School chapter), Humane Society of Jackson County (ARF), The Community Table in Sylva and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Donations to any of these organizations in his memory, or to the N.C. Arboretum or Botanical Gardens at Asheville, in lieu of flowers, are greatly appreciated.
As Joe Meigs’s family members, we are grateful for the example he set as a father, husband, grandfather, brother and uncle. His memory, influence, talent and love will live on through us, our descendants, and countless others he impacted in his nearly 78 years of life. A celebration of Joe Meigs’s life will be held on Saturday, June 29, 5 p.m., at the Jackson County Recreation Complex’s outdoor pavilion, 88 Cullowhee Mountain Road, Cullowhee. The location in case of rain is the Jackson County Library at the same time.