Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Bell Tolls for Patsy Cline


Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Virginia, on September 8, 1932. From an early age, she had an interest in music, with her sights set on Nashville.

After several false starts, including an audition at the Grand Ol' Opry, Cline released her first album in 1955.  The first single to hit the airwaves was called A Church, a Courtroom, Then Goodbye.  Although the song was not a commercial success, more would follow, including her signature hit Crazy, released in 1961.  Over the course of her brief career, Cline recorded a total of 104 songs.

On March 3, 1963, Cline performed a benefit concert in Kansas City, Kansas, in honor of a local DJ killed in a car accident one month earlier. Appearing with her on stage were notable country luminaries including Dottie West, George Jones, and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Her final song that night, and ultimately the final song she ever performed live, was I'll Sail My Ship Alone.

She spent the night at a local motel, intent on flying out the next morning. Fog conditions prevented any takeoffs, however. Although West offered her a ride back to Nashville, Cline opted to wait another day and try again, telling West and her husband "don't worry about me, Hoss.  When it's my time to go, it's my time."

On March 5th, she checked out of the hotel and arrived at Fairfax Airport.  There, she boarded a Piper PA-24 Comanche with several of her friends, including amateur pilot Randy Hughes.  The plane stopped in Rogers, Arkansas to refuel, then headed to Dyersburg Municipal Airport in Dyersburg, Tennessee.  There, they were advised by the airfield manager to postpone their travel due to inclement weather, even offering to put them up in a local motel for the night.  Hughes declined the offer however, telling the group "I've already come this far.  We'll be there before you know it."  The plane took off in high winds at 6:07pm.  It soon disappeared from radar.

The next morning, a local man named Roger Miller discovered the plane's wreckage on his property.  It had crashed nose down, and forensic analysis would conclude that all five passengers died on impact.  Cline's watch had stopped at 6:20 pm, just thirteen minutes after take-off.

Cline's body was returned to her hometown of Winchester, where she was laid to rest at Shenandoah Memorial Park.  A bell tower was erected nearby, which chimes every day at exactly 6:20 pm in her honor.

Located on Patsy Cline Highway in Winchester, Virginia.

A section of the park is dedicated to the memory of Cline and
her husband, Charles Dick.

The shared grave of Cline and her husband Charles, who didn't
pass until 2015.

The headstone includes Cline's real name.

A belltower in the park was created in tribute to Cline's legacy.
It tolls every day at 6:20 pm, the exact time her plane crashed 
in 1963.

A memorial plaque at the base of the tower.

Rest in peace.

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