'She is country music': Mourners gather at Loretta Lynn's ranch after star's death
HURRICANE MILLS, Tenn. − An air of quiet sadness blanketed the rolling hills of Loretta Lynn's ranch and home Tuesday afternoon, hours after the news of her death was announced.
Nestled in the heart of the sprawling property, fans and mourners gathered to place flowers at the gates of her historic home and commemorate the singer's monumental impact on country music.
Humphrey County Sheriff Chris Davis stood watch over the growing crowd.
“It’s a rough day today,” he said, visibly emotional. "We received a call around 8:05 a.m. that Mrs. Loretta had passed earlier. She was surrounded by her family and loved ones and passed peacefully.”
The family is "requesting that we keep them in our thoughts and prayers over the next few days and weeks while they mourn the loss of their mother," Davis said.
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“They are very appreciative of the public," he said.
Fans who gathered at the singer's home were equally shocked and gutted by news of the Lynn's death. Many, like Nita Sloan and her mother Linda Whipple, of Arizona, were visiting the property on vacation when they heard the news.
“My mom was a big Loretta Lynn fan,” Sloan said. “And I just remember Lynn being a great women’s activist. I really appreciate what she did for women because that got us where we are today ... You know in the 60s they called her the most banned music in the world. So good for her. And she lived to be 90, so she lived a good long life doing what’s right."
“I went to all her concerts,” said Whipple, tearing up. "I’m just so sad. I've been here twice now. I even gave (Sloan) her middle name − Lynn − after Loretta. I was so excited to bring her here."
Aimee Broussard, another fan, cried as she dropped off a bouquet of flowers at the gates of Lynn’s home.
Broussard, who left her job in Nashville immediately after hearing news of Lynn's death, listened to her music the entire drive.
“I’ve never been this upset about a celebrity at all,” she said through tears. “She’s a big part of my childhood growing up and I listened to her music throughout the years ... I was not expecting it to hit me so hard, so when I got so emotional I just said, ‘You know what, I’m going to take the rest of my day because clearly I’m emotional about it and just wanted to pay my respects and I thought what better way than to bring her flowers.’”
That connection did not stop at national borders, either. Tom Kummer and Renate Wüsch, visitors from Switzerland, were visiting Patsy Cline’s memorial in Benton County when they heard the news of Lynn's death. They then drove to Hurricane Mills to pay their respects.
“It’s so sad," Kummer said. "It affects you a lot because she’s such a part of popular culture. And this is such an influential area for country music. She meant everything to country music."
“We are huge music fans,” Wüsch said. “So of course, we know about, listen to and appreciate her.”
“And her whole life story!” Kummer said. “Married at 15, and everything she went through? That’s so inspiring. We listen to her music on the way here and it just sounds so real."
As mouners gathered and whispered quietly amongst themselves, a small procession of vehicles quietly passed by, carrying Lynn from her historic home one last time.
Ginger Stephens, who traveled to the memorial from Kentucky, placed a bouquet of flowers at the gate as the vehicles passed by.
"It was humbling to hear the news," she said. "Humbling and heartbreaking. She’s a legend. She is country music. Country music is all heart, that’s what she is. She cared about everything and just had such a huge heart. And she sang about real stuff. She sang about life that we all experience throughout our journey, and we connect with that. That’s what makes Loretta Lynn so great."
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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills draws mourners after death