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Community remembers Oak Ridge boy Joe Bonsall

Joe Bonsall. Photo: Daniel Tommasino

Joe Bonsalllongtime member of the Country Music Hall of Fame The Boys of Oak Ridgedied Tuesday (July 9) from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He was 76.

Since news of his passing, many artists, music industry executives and members of the Music Row community have shared their memories of Bonsall. Most have spoken of his kindness, vitality and smile.

Check out some of those messages below. Click here to read Bonsall’s full obituary.

“When I look at Joe Bonsall’s life, I see a life of accomplishment. The son of two military veterans, he was raised to be an intelligent man in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania neighborhood. His parents taught him that he could be anything he wanted if he worked hard, told the truth, and trusted God. Joe could do anything he wanted, but what impressed me most was the energy, love, and compassion he put into everything he did and his unique gift of communicating those emotions and feelings in every performance, song, and book. Joe was “that” best friend that every person hopes to have in their life.” – Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys

“When I look at Joe Bonsall’s life, I see a life of accomplishment. The son of two military veterans, he was raised to be an intelligent man in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania neighborhood. His parents taught him that he could be anything he wanted if he worked hard, told the truth, and trusted God. Joe could do anything he wanted, but what impressed me most was the energy, love, and compassion he put into everything he did and his unique gift of communicating those emotions and feelings in every performance, song, and book. Joe was “that” best friend that every person hopes to have in their life.” – William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys

“For many years, Joe was my best friend. We knew each other long before we became members of the Oak Ridge Boys. He was a special person, loved by all and a true inspiration to us all. He was also the best singing partner a person could have. For many years, he courageously battled a terrible illness and was a soldier until the very end. There is no doubt that today, he is in a much better place – HOME with Jesus. I will see you soon my dear friend.” – Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys

“Joe was a true hero to me. His singing is something I have admired since I was a kid. No one could do it like Joe. He was a great encouragement to me. I feel honored that he chose me to sing the tenor line when he decided to retire from the road. I do my best for Joe and the boys every night, but only Joe can fill that role. His legacy is something that is irreplaceable. I will always be grateful to have known and loved one of my all-time heroes who was nothing but good to me. I will miss Joe Bonsall. Thank you for loving everyone you met and making them feel like the most important person in your life when you talked to them. A true gentleman.” – Ben James of the Oak Ridge Boys

“God love you, Joe Bonsall. You were an inspiration to fans, friends and family, especially me, for 52 years. This is a very difficult day.” Jim Halsey, manager of the Oak Ridge Boys

“For 50 years, Joe Bonsall was the driving force behind the Oak Ridge Boys. He was as exciting an entertainer as any who ever graced the gospel or country stage. His tenor voice was high and clear, and his jovial spirit always provided a burst of energy, immediately inviting the audience to come and relax. He certainly lifted our worries every time he sang.” – Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

“Like the rest of the world, I was saddened this morning to learn of the passing of the talented Joe Bonsall. Joe was a great singer, an accomplished entertainer, and a dear friend. Not only did we share country music, but he loved baseball as much as I did, and we had many friendly discussions about which team was better…his Philadelphia Phillies or my Atlanta Braves. I won’t say money ever changed hands, but I won’t deny it either. I will think of Joe and miss him with every high note I hear him sing and every crack of a bat that echoes across the summer sky. Rest in peace, my friend. You were truly one of a kind.” – Bill Anderson

“When I think of the Oak Ridge Boys and their place in country music history, Joe’s big smile and boundless energy clearly come to mind. His commitment to serving others while making country music a global sensation will never be forgotten and our industry is better because of him. Today, we have lost an energy and a voice in music that is unmatched. He will be greatly missed by all who were fortunate enough to know him.” – Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association

“All of us at the Grand Ole Opry loved Joe Bonsall. Fans in the seats marveled at his energy on stage. — Those listening around the world listened to his incomparable voice with his beloved Oak Ridge Boys. — And all of us backstage laughed heartily at his antics and counted our lucky stars to have been in the orbit of such a loving, talented, wonderful human being. Safe travels, buddy. You are so loved.” – Dan Rogers, Senior Vice President/Executive Producer of the Grand Ole Opry

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