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Jean Shepard (1933 - 2016)

Getty Images / Country Music Hall of Fame / Photo by Elmer Williams

Jean Shepard (1933 - 2016)

Grand Ole Opry star Jean Shepard died Sept. 25, 2016, according to multiple news sources. She was 82.

Shepard had been in declining health for some time and entered hospice care last week. On Sunday morning, one of her sons issued a statement concerning his mother’s death.

"Today is one of the hardest days of my life. Mom has been called home this morning and is now at peace. Please keep our family in your prayers during this tough time. Thank you everyone for your support,” son Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. said.

Shepard graced the Grand Ole Opry stage since 1955 and was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

She had 73 songs hit the country charts including a No. 1 song with “A Dear John Letter,” which was a duet with country music legend Ferlin Husky. Shepard was one of the first female country stars along with Patsy Cline.

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As a teenager, Shepard played in an all-female country band called the Melody Ranch Girls. She was discovered by country music superstar Hank Thompson, who helped her get a recording contract with Capitol Records. In 1955, Shepard had her first top-10 solo country song with “A Satisfied Mind.”

Shepard married fellow Grand Ole Opry star Hawkshaw Hawkins Sr. in 1960. Hawkins died three years later in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline.

On Nov. 21, 2015, Shepard became the first female to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 60 consecutive years. That feat has only been achieved by one other person. She then retired from the stage that night.

Country Music star Terri Clark tweeted: "RIP Jean Shepard. You were a pistol and I adored you. Thank you for blazing a trail for us…"

Shepard is survived by her husband, Benny Birchfield, and sons Don Robin Hawkins, Harold Franklin Hawkins II, and Corey Birchfield.

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