Singer Naomi Judd, part of the Grammy-winning duo The Judds and mother of Wynonna and Ashley Judd passed away on April 30 at the age of 76.
Her daughters announced her death in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the statement said. “We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”
Her husband of 32 years, Larry Strickland, released a statement that read, “Naomi Judd’s family request privacy during this heartbreaking time. No additional information will be released at this time.”
On Sunday, during CMT’s “Naomi Judd: A River of Time” special, Larry described Naomi as “fragile” in the days leading up to her death.
Larry Strickland Pays Tribute To Late Wife Naomi Judd
Larry married Naomi in 1989. He spoke about his late wife at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, to pay tribute to the country singer who was beloved by millions. Her daughters, Wynonna Judd and Ashley Judd, were also there to remember their late mother.
“Namoi never met a stranger,” Larry said, as reported by PEOPLE. “Much to my displeasure, she would start a conversation with anyone who made eye contact with her, and we would end up standing 10, 20, 30 minutes on a sidewalk while she talked to a complete stranger about their passions and their dog.”
He described a time when Naomi flew alone from Austria to Nashville for the Country Music Hall of Fame Ceremony, which took place only one day after she took her own life. Larry noted that it was unusual for his wife to fly alone.
“I was really scared to death about her flying alone all the way from Vienna back to Nashville cause I knew how fragile she was,” he recalled. “Well, she made the flight home back to Nashville without any problem.”
During the flight, Naomi had apparently struck up a conversation with the man who was sitting next to her. The man sent Larry an email shortly afterward, calling meeting Naomi “a relief and a comfort.” Apparently, the man didn’t realize that Naomi was famous. However, he then told her husband that “the next 90 minutes we spent in each other’s company was not only entertaining, fascinating and enlightening, but for me at least, thoroughly enjoyable.”
“It’s a small comfort, I’m sure, but my life seems a lot richer after meeting your wife, however briefly,” he wrote. Larry became emotional on stage as he read the letter from Naomi’s new fan.
“Obviously, I didn’t know Naomi at all, but I can tell you she spoke highly and warmly of you, and the life you shared together,” an emotional Larry read. “Rest assured she loved you and had no qualms about telling me, a stranger on a plane, that was so.”
The man told Larry about the “measure and impact” that Naomi left on him. Larry called the heartfelt message a “great, great pleasure and comfort to me.”
Wynonna & Ashley Judd Pay Tribute To Their Late Mother
As The Blast previously reported, Wynonna, 57, said that she plans to continue performing the last stops on The Judds’ “Final Tour.”
“I’ve made a decision, and I thought I’d share it on national television that, after a lot of thought, I’m gonna have to honor her and do this tour,” Wynonna told the audience through tears. “The show must go on, as hard as it may be, and we will show up together, and you will carry me as you’ve carried me for 38 years … So we will continue this spectacle. That’s what she would want, right?”
Her announcement was met with applause and cheering. Wynonna described the memorial held for her mother as “devastatingly beautiful.” Many of The Judds’ Grammy-winning songs were performed during the night, as well as her mother’s favorite songs.
Ashley, 54, had opened the night by saying, “This is where Mom wanted her public celebration to take place.” She also described her mother as an “everywoman.” She added, “Perhaps this is why everyone felt they knew her.”
She concluded that her mother “was totally extraordinary: the five-time Grammy award winner, the multi-platinum artist, the Hall of Famer who was lauded by millions.”