WAYNESVILLE — Charles Purcell Alley, 84, unexpectedly passed away on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. He had a playful sense of humor, loved puns and made friends everywhere he went. He will be sorely missed by those whose lives he touched.
A native of Haywood County, he was a son of the late Doyle Davis Alley and Edith Purcell Alley. He was also preceded in death by his sister, Corinne “Connie” Alley Killian Withers, and brothers Zebulon “Zeb” Doyle Alley and John “Jack” Hampton Alley.
Early on, the Alley Family tragically lost their father, Doyle, to pneumonia in 1936 when Charles was only 11-months old. Edie went on to hold a variety of professional roles in Waynesville and Maggie Valley while she reared her four children, all of whom attended college, with three earning graduate degrees.
When Charles joined the school band in junior high school, he found his lifelong passion. He began his professional career while still in high school, earning pocket money by playing jazz guitar at supper clubs and dances. At the age of 16, he became the leader of a big band orchestra in Waynesville and performed regionally.
By the time he finished high school, Charles was proficient in so many instruments that he was offered a full-ride scholarship to study music at Oklahoma City University. He led a band there that was invited to record at the local TV station.
Before the start of his junior year, he fell in love with his first wife Joan Zorbaugh, whose family summered in Waynesville. She was a Florida State University student, so Charles quickly transferred to FSU, which also offered a scholarship. They married and started a family while Charles earned both a bachelor and master degree in music education. His son Charles Fredrick (Rick) and daughter DeAnne were born at this time.
By now Charles was a professional musician. His principal instrument in college was the oboe and he also played the clarinet, saxophone, and guitar. In addition, he could play many other band instruments and the piano well enough that throughout his life he taught private lessons to budding musicians.
For more than 10 years, Charles was a band director who taught in Florida at the junior high, high school and college levels as well as teacher training in elementary schools. During his summers off from teaching he assisted Joan in running her baton twirling camps for girls, held in both Florida and Brevard. It became a robust family business that was a summer tradition for baton twirling campers from all over the country.
Eventually Charles returned to his beloved FSU to earn a PhD in music education, psychology and learning. There he married his second wife Jayne Marsh, with whom he had daughter Stacy Laurel. While in his doctoral program he did ground-breaking work at the intersection of psychology and music.
Using test subjects from varied walks of life, he connected them to an EKG machine and coached them on relaxation. As they listened to classical music, Charles taught them to consciously lower their heart rate, proving that it was possible.
In mid-life Charles was fortunate to marry his wife of 23 years, Kathryn Fuqua, a flutist who had also been a member of the FSU marching band while in college. They were bound by their abiding love of classical, jazz and choral music. He was a former member of the Grace Church Choir and played clarinet, while Kathryn played flute. Both have been proud FSU Seminoles fans for their entire adult lives; Charlie probably owned one of every FSU branded garnet-and-gold article of clothing ever made.
Charles joined Haywood Community Band in 2003 and was a founding member and director of the Frog Level Philharmonic Dixieland Band in 2005. He was also a founding member of the Signature Winds in 2005.
At the time of his death, Charles had been sober for 32 years. He was a living example that people can and do choose lasting change, and his honest self-reflection was an inspiration for his family and friends. During these years he was a sponsor for other recovering alcoholics, including for many years sponsoring men who were incarcerated.
Throughout his life Charles shared his enjoyment of music with his children by helping them listen with appreciation to all kinds of music. Ever the educator, he continued introducing them to “new” music as adults. For the rest of their lives his children will listen to certain passages of music while still hearing his voice, pointing out something remarkable about it.
He is survived by his beloved wife Kathryn Fuqua Alley, son Charles Fredrick (Rick) Alley of Jacksonville Florida, daughters DeAnne Alley Preston, and her husband, Mark, of Portland, Oregon and Laurel Peffer, and her husband, Andrew, of Huntsville, Alabama; and two grandsons, Gage and Nolan Peffer, as well as many nephews and a niece.
Memorials can be made to the Florida State University College of Music 325 W. College Avenue, Tallahassee, FL 32301-1403; Haywood Christian Ministry Inc, 150 Branner Avenue, Waynesville, NC 28786; or Grace Church in the Mountains Endowment Fund 394 N. Haywood Street, Waynesville, NC 28786.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at Grace Church in the Mountains with the Rev. Joslyn Schaefer officiating. There will be a reception in the parish hall following the service.
The care of Mr. Alley has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Home of Waynesville and an online memorial register is available at “Obituaries” at www.wellsfuneralhome.com.