Cover photo for James Robert Cornelius Hartbarger's Obituary
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James Robert Cornelius Hartbarger

August 22, 1936 — September 19, 2023


James Robert Cornelius Hartbarger


James Robert Cornelius “Jim” Hartbarger passed away on Tuesday, September 19, 2023, at the age of 87.

Jim was born on August 22, 1936, to James Francis and Alice Littrell Hartbarger in Clifton Forge, Virginia. He grew up in Waynesboro, Virginia, where he was an exceptional athlete, exceling in football and baseball. At age 17 Jim signed a professional baseball contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he rose to the Triple A level until an injury forced him to retire from baseball. He then enrolled at Salem College in West Virginia, where he made a name for himself on the gridiron. He still holds records at the college to this day. During his time at Salem College, he met his bride of over 65 years, Barbara Jean Digges Hartbarger.

After graduation, he was invited to the Pittsburg Steelers training camp but instead turned to teaching and coaching at the high school level, with his first coaching position being at Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton, Virginia as the varsity men’s basketball coach and history teacher.

After a successful three-year stint as a high school basketball coach, Jim became head coach at Ferrum Junior College in Ferrum, Virginia, where he and his teams went 75-14 over a three-year period, winning the conference and Jim being named Coach of the Year all three years. He left Ferrum to become an assistant basketball coach at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia before coming to Western Carolina University in 1969 as the head basketball coach, a position he held until 1974. His 1972 team went 25-5 and his 1973 team went to the NAIA finals. He is a member of three athletic halls of fame, including Salem College, Ferrum College and Western Carolina University.

After semi-retiring from coaching, Jim and Jean along with their sons Buzz and Scott, purchased the Jarrett House in Dillsboro in 1975 and ran the historic inn and restaurant for nearly 40 years. Throughout his time owning the Jarrett House, Jim gave many youths in the community their first job.

In the early 2000s Jim returned to coaching basketball, first at Cherokee High School as the varsity men’s coach, then he joined his son Scott at Smoky Mountain High School as Scott’s assistant and head junior varsity men’s coach. Jim then went back to Cherokee in the 2010s to assist the men’s and women’s basketball teams and substitute teach. He was affectionately known by the students, faculty and staff as “Grandpa.”

In addition to his mentorship, Jim will be remembered for his contributions to Southwestern Community College’s New Century Scholars program, Western Carolina University, The Community Table and various other quiet ways he impacted the lives of those who were fortunate enough to know him.

In addition to his parents Jim was preceded in death by his sister Susie Hartbarger Hassard and infant granddaughter Elizabeth Blair Hartbarger.

Surviving is his wife Jean, sons Buzz (Mary) and Scott (Sharon), grandchildren Julia Hartbarger Duvall (Corey), Jay (Kaitlyn), Benjamin, Christopher and Will Hartbarger and great-grandson JB Duvall.

A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00PM on Sunday, October 1, 2023, at Sylva First United Methodist Church with Pastor Karen Doucette officiating.

In lieu of flowers, the Hartbarger family asks that donations be made in honor of Jim to the Alzheimer’s Association or the American Heart Foundation.


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Past Services

Memorial Service

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

Sylva First United Methodist Church

77 Jackson St, Sylva, NC 28779

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