Mary Catherine Fern Coblen Culbreth

December 20, 2016

Mary Catherine Fern Coble Culbreth, 97, passed away peacefully with her daughter by her side due to pneumonia on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 at Southminster Retirement Community in Charlotte, NC only one day from celebrating her 73rd wedding anniversary to her beloved husband, Dr. George Gordon Culbreth, who preceded her in death. Fern was born in Elk Park, NC on November 20, 1919 to Ila Elizabeth Harkey Coble and Reverend Thomas Stanley Coble, a Methodist minister. When Fern was 10 years old her father was transferred to the Eastern Conference and they lived in Bath, Cape Hatteras and Durham, NC. After graduating from Durham high school at 15, Fern completed 2 years at Brevard College and graduated from Duke University in 1940. Fern met and fell in love with her future husband, George Gordon Culbreth while he was in medical school at Duke. George’s father, also a Methodist minister, was a good friend with Fern’s father so they were overjoyed when George and Fern married on December 21, 1943 in the Duke University Chapel. Fern worked for attorneys in Baltimore, MD (while George was studying neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University) and Augusta, GA during WWll where George was stationed as a 1st Lt. and then Captain in the US Army Medical Corps. After the war they moved around the country from New York to California. When thinking of where to move next and settle down, they visited Charlotte and decided to move there after driving down Queens Road West seeing the beautiful tree-lined street. Fern and George moved their 3 small children to the Cotswold apartments in Charlotte where lifelong friendships began. One of Fern’s bridge clubs from this group lasted over 55 years. Fern was a past President of the Mecklenburg Medical Auxiliary of Charlotte and contributed to the Mecklenburg Medical Alliance and Endowment, was a Cub Scout Den mother, on the board for the Florence Crittenton Home, was in charge of the Mint Museum’s membership drive for one year and organized a group from the Mint to visit art museums in Pennsylvania and Delaware. After her husband George died in 1971 at age 53, she went to work for allergists Dr. Lovell and McKay until she retired. After retiring, she volunteered at Habitat for Humanity. In 1997, Fern received a “HABIE” award in recognition of outstanding service to Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte. Fern was a long-time beloved member, past treasurer and Bed & Breakfast host of the PEO Chapter G in Charlotte, a national philanthropic organization. A PEO member said, “Fern was such a special lady. Funny, talented and the true picture of what a PEO sister aspires to be.” Fern enjoyed reading, crossword puzzles, travel, playing bridge, watching golf, tennis and college basketball, especially Duke! She loved the arts, music and paintings and was a long-time member of the Mint Museum. After being a devoted member of Covenant Presbyterian Church since 1954, Fern decided to return to her roots and joined Myers Park United Methodist Church. 

Fern is survived by her sons of Denver, CO, David “Cully” Neal Culbreth (wife Pegi, son Matthew and daughter Lauren) and Richard “Rick” Gordon Culbreth and daughter, Cynthia “Cindy” Culbreth Withers (husband Lewis and daughter Sarah) of Charlotte, NC, sister Elizabeth “Liz” Coble Whaling (husband, Chuck and son Jon) of Cary, NC, sister-in-law Helen Dietze of Providence Rhode Island (sons Brandt and Gordon Allen of CA and daughter Jane Dietze of PRI) and preceded in death husband, Dr. George Gordon Culbreth, brothers Jim, Ed and Tom Coble (wife Hilda and son Stan and surviving daughters Ann and Nancy and son Bill).  

Funeral services to celebrate Fern’s life will be held Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 1:30 pm at Myers Park United Methodist Church at 1501 Queens Road, Charlotte, NC 28207 followed by a reception in Jubilee Hall. Graveside services requested by Fern will be private. For those who cannot attend the funeral service, it will be live streamed beginning at 1:15 pm through the church website:

A memorial service for Fern will be at Southminster in the main chapel on Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 11 AM. Many thanks to the wonderful staff at Southminster for taking good care of Fern during her three years there and at Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region. Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth Poe Funeral Services and condolences can be at sent to the family by visiting In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte and the Mint Museum of Charlotte.






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  • Judy Harris

    Cindy, Wayne and I want you to know we are sending up prayers for you and your family, in the loss of your mother. She sounds like a very special lady. Judy and Wayne Harris

  • Sally McCoy

    Dear Cindy,

    I was very sorry to hear about your mother's death. I am glad you were able to be with her. I remember her fondly as she was always kind to me and was a great friend of my mother's. I think the obituary reflects what an extraordinary 97 years she had. My condolences to you and your brother. I will not make the service as we live in CA but my thoughts are with you and your family. warmly, Sally