BREAKING: Country Icon Dies at 82

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Jean Shepard
Jean Shepard (photo from 100feed.com)

Even though it’s a sad thing when a person passes away, it’s good to share memories of their life. It’s good to remember what kind of person they were and the things they accomplished and overcame. 

We have the chance to do that once again.

The Grand Ole Opry announced that Jean Shepard passed away September 25 at the age of 82. She had been in hospice the previous week.

As the only female Opry member to reach 60 years of membership, Shepard started with the Opry in 1955 and last made an appearance in November 2015. (The cherry on top was that she also earned a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame).

When she got the news of her Opry membership, the then-Opry manager Jim Denny gave her the news.

“Jim was making some announcements to the DJs and the media,” Shepard said, “And he said, ‘By the way, we would like to welcome the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, Jean Shepard. Happy birthday, Jean.’ And what a thrill.”

Shepard has not regretted her time with the Opry, to say the least.

“The Opry has been a most important part of my life and my career,” Shepard says on the Opry’s website. “I hope that I have brought to the Opry something that was good for everyone and for country music because the Opry was good for me.”

The Opry says: Yes, Jean, you’ve given us more than we could ask for.

“The Opry family is truly saddened by the news of Jean’s passing,” said Pete Fisher, Vice President and General Manager of the Grand Ole Opry. “Although we will miss Jean’s presence on the Opry stage, she has left us the wonderful gift of her music which will be remembered for generations to come.”

Jean Shepard — born Ollie Imogene Shepard — began her great life in Oklahoma and grew up in Visalia, California, as one of 10 children. When she was 14 years old, Hank Thompson noticed her singing and playing bass in an all-girl band she started, Melody Ranch Girls. This led to her getting in front of Capitol Records and eventually being a trailblazer for other solo female artists in the country music world. 

The Opry’s website says “there was really no precedent in country music for a young woman recording and touring on her own rather than as a member of a family team, couple, or as a band’s ‘girl singer.'”

Her hit song “A Dear John Letter” with Ferlin Husky was the very first song after World War II that featured a female vocalist and sold a million copies. Other songs she wrote that became hits include “Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar),” “A Satisfied Mind,” and “Slippin’ Away.”

She’s survived by her husband Benny Birchfield and sons Don Robin Hawkins, Harold Franklin Hawkins II, and Corey Birchfield.