Country singer Jean Shepard has died at the age of 82.
The Grand Ole Opry star passed away on Sunday (25Sep16) following a battle with Parkinson's disease.
"Today is one of the hardest days of my life," a statement from the singer's son Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. reads. "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."
Shepard began her career as a teenager in 1948 as part of the the Melody Ranch Girls. In 1952, she signed a contract with Capital Records and went on to work with Jimmy Bryant, Speedy West, Cliffie Stone and Billy Strange.
She scored her first hit single in 1953 when she recorded A Dear John Letter, a duet with Ferlin Husky. The pair followed that with Forgive Me John, and Shepard also found success with A Satisfied Mind, Beautiful Lies, and I Thought of You.
Shepard released her last album, Dear John, in 1981. In 2011, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame with Reba MCEntire and songwriter Bobby Braddock, and last year (15), she became the first female member of the Grand Ole Opry for 60 consecutive years, according to Wikipedia.com. She retired from performing in November (15).
The singer was married to singer Hawkshaw Hawkins, who died in the plane crash which claimed the lives of Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas in 1963, and she gave birth to their son a month after the accident. She went on to wed musician and singer Benny Birchfield.