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Community shares tributes, memories of Naomi Judd

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While the world is mourning the loss of country music great Naomi Judd, many Williamson County residents are grieving over the loss of a friend. 

The Grammy Award-winning recording artist, author and actress died Saturday at the age of 76. She leaves behind her husband, Larry Strickland, and daughters Wynonna and Ashley Judd. 

After Naomi’s daughters made a statement about their mother’s passing, friends locally began sharing memories and expressing their grief over the loss.

Jim Redd fondly remembers Naomi’s wedding reception held at his home in Brentwood. 

“I did not know Naomi before the wedding, but after, we became friends,” he said. “It was interesting to me that most of the people who attended were family, friends and church members. Very few of the people were in the music business. I found that kind of unusual, but it shows what really mattered to her. She was a lovely person.” 

Betty Proctor, pastor at Hillsboro United Methodist Church, remembers Judd through their relationship built at the church. 

“Naomi was a cherished member of the Leiper’s Fork community,” Proctor said. “She infused our town and our church with her courageous authenticity and joy. She was quick to share comfort during times of grief, praying over many of us and doing whatever she could to make our paths smoother. When we raised support for tornado victims and flood survivors, Naomi would run the auction, donate generously and regale us all with her stories. She shared her input and writings with us when we studied mental health and resilience. She adored her husband and family and will be sorely missed by all of us who knew her as neighbor and friend. 

“Naomi is at peace with her creator.”

Dena Ferrell Nance, a Franklin businesswoman and former owner of What’s In Store on Main Street, has many wonderful memories of Naomi. 

“I never realized how much appreciation and gratitude I’ve had for Naomi Judd until reading of her passing,” Nance said. “She was my very first jewelry customer before I even opened What’s In Store in Franklin. I made her custom raspberry pink necklace and earrings for a couture gown she was wearing to an awards show.

“For over a decade, she frequented my store not only to shop for herself, but to purchase gifts for countless others. She would tell me how she met less-fortunate folks and how a personal gift of keepsake jewelry would lift their spirits. Sometimes, I even got to help her write the notes that were meant to inspire and spread some love to these folks. Sometimes, she would just pop in to ask for bowls of water to give animals that were along Main Street.”

Nance went on to describe Naomi’s unrelenting love for those in the community.

“She posed for every picture, regardless of how presentable she was, and properly thanked fans for loving her music and acting,” she said. “From what I recall, she always followed up with a question about that person and their talents, trying to acknowledge the talents of others. 

“I once got to peruse all her stage costumes at her home. That was a real treat as a designer. Family friends worked for her and always bragged of her generosity. She was funny, witty, caring and persistent. I’m blessed to have known her.”

Harry Chapman, a former local journalist, crossed paths with Naomi on occasion while working on stories.

“Naomi was a hard worker and understood the business of music,” he said. “I always loved cutting up with her in interviews. She cherished her friendships. Always good for a quote, she once told me, ‘Normal is only a setting on the washing machine.’”

Doris McMillan knew and worked with Naomi for more than two decades.

“I have shared spiritual threads with my dear friend Naomi Judd for 23 years,” McMillan said. “We have had more than just a work relationship, but a very special and sweet friendship built on faith. Our love of Franklin and service to our community was the fabric of our existence. 

I will miss my dear friend. I will miss handling her beautiful garments, I will miss her excitement and joy of scheduled events. I will miss working out with her for tours, book signings, award presentations and for simply just being the lovely Southern woman of class and style she perfected.

“She was a brilliant businesswoman and philanthropic to many needs locally and nationally. This is a great loss to our community. She has touched so many of us here in Franklin, and she has helped us navigate our ways within our gifts and allowed so many of us to flourish. Now, she has come to a place of eternal rest. I will deeply miss our special times together. A committed and devoted seamstress.”  

The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Sunday evening in Nashville in an emotional medallion ceremony that went on as scheduled the day after Naomi’s death. 

The Judds first reached the top of the country charts in 1984, and over the next seven years had 14 No. 1 hits, including “Mama He’s Crazy,” “Why Not Me,” “Girls Night Out,” “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain” and “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

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