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Musicians and friends remember Oak Ridge Boy’s Joe Bonsall

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Hearts are heavy in the world of country music. On Tuesday, Joe Bonsall, a longtime tenor of the Oak Ridge Boys for 50 years, died quietly after battling ALS.

Friends say his voice was unmistakable, his energy was unforgettable.

“He got into every performance as if it was his last one,” said TG Sheppard, a country music star and longtime friend of the Oaks.

Sheppard’s wife Kelly Lang, a country music star in her own right, says it was his personality that will be irreplaceable.

“His heart,” said Lang. “He didn’t take himself too seriously. He used his platform to love.”

Sheppard and Lang got to know the singer so well from touring together, recording albums together, but mostly just living life together. The Oak Ridge Boys even attended the couple’s 2007 wedding.

“You knew what he was thinking. You left his presence knowing that what he felt about you, and he would make sure you felt loved before you walked away from him,” said Lang.

“And that laugh. Oh man,” added Sheppard.

The same goes for T. Graham Brown, a longtime country musician who started touring with Joe in the 1980s.

“I don’t know if I ever saw him in a bad mood,” said Brown. “He didn’t star trip around, he was a regular good guy.”

Brown got to watch the band’s career go from longing for success to being lionized in it.

“Grand Ole Opry member, Grammy winner, million selling artist. Just, you name it,” said Brown.

Sheppard thinks much of the Oak’s success can be credited to their legendary song, Elvira.

“Everybody would go crazy, throw babies in the air,” Sheppard said with a chuckle. “Especially the part that Richard Sterban would do — oom papa oom papa mow mow. Everybody loved to do that.”

“I think it’s one of those songs that’s embedded in the collective subconscious of the American public. Everybody knows Elvira,” said Brown.

Over the last few years of his life, while Joe’s personality never dimmed, his body, tragically, couldn’t keep up. In fact, the last time this reporter got to speak to Bonsall, when he spoke to NewsChannel 5 about the life and legacy of Loretta Lynn, his band mates had to help hold him up.

“I obviously knew something was going on with his health, but he just never complained,” said Lang.

“Kind of ironic, isn’t it? That he had ALS. Being one with boundless energy and bounding across the stage and to be stricken with that — I would say — yes, a cruel irony,” said Brown. “But, he’s resting in the arms of Jesus, man. He isn’t sick anymore.”

But with musical talent so indescribable, Joe Bonsall’s legacy is undeniable.

“This one’s going to hurt for a while,” said Sheppard.

“It is,” Lang replied.

“We’ve lost a good one,” said Brown.

For his wishes, Bonsall will not have a memorial service or funeral, but those wanting to honor his life can make donations to the ALS Association and the Vanderbilt Medical Center ALS and Neuroscience Research Center.

She’s in her 80s and legally blind. Franklin woman continues to crochet for those in need

“Here’s a great story that proves everyone has something to give, regardless of age OR personal challenges. Our Austin Pollack introduces us to Ms Sylvia Mooney. At age 80, she’s not sitting still. Instead, she uses her skills to craft compassion for others… one stitch at a time. Her crochet creations go to non-profits to help our homeless neighbors. You’ll be surprised to learn she does it all, while facing a serious health issue. Well done Sylvia!”

-Rhori Johnston