Thousands of fans flock to this small hometown each year to trace the roots of one of the
most popular singers in the musical history of the country. They come seeking any landmarks that note
her passing through the area on the journey of life.
It was a life that was cut short as she died in a plane crash in 1963 after only three decades on
this earth. The singer is Patsy Cline and the hometown is Winchester, Va., at the top of the Shenandoah
Her untimely death did not slow down the popularity of her music that speaks to millions
around the world. Patsy’s recording of “Crazy,” penned by Willie Nelson,
remains one of the songs most often played on jukeboxes.
Traces of her journey in Winchester remain, especially the Patsy Cline Historic House, 608 S.
Kent St., which opened in 2011.The two story house has been restored to the way it was when her family
lived there between 1948 and 1957.The cozy home keeps the authenicity of the Hensley family who
worked hard and appreciated all they had. Celebrating Patsy Cline Inc., which owns the house and is
kept on track by President Ron Hottle, tells the story on its website, celebratingpatsycline.org and
maintains the 1,000-square-foot structure.
Volunteers, who are led by house director JudySue Huyette-Kempf, keep the place running
after years of preparation to honor the native daughter. The public is welcome Tuesday through Saturday
from April to October to come in and “make yourself at home” as Patsy sang in her iconic voice.
Fans who make the pilgrimage are never disappointed and are often featured on the house’s
Facebook page. Souvenirs, reasonably price, depict Patsy’s life in Winchester as she carved out a career
in music. She signed her first record contract while living at the house, and it was from that house that
she prepared for a 1957 appearance on the “Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts” TV show. She won and her
career was launched.
Her determination and passion for her singing are evident in the details depicted in her first 20
years of life. She never wavered or faltered in her quest, always keeping her eye on the goal. In 1973,
she was the first solo woman performer to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and
the first solo female country star commemorated on a stamp by the U.S. Post Office.
Other local sites to catch a glimpse the life of the legendary singer in Winchester include WINC radio station,
520 North Pleasant Valley Road, where she sang to local audiences during her climb to stardom; Gaunt’s
Drug Store, 1 Valley Ave., now shuttered, where she worked to help support her family; Handley High
School where the auditorium bears her name, Patsy Cline Theatre, and an annual concert, the Patsy Cline
Classic is held and where big names such as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard perform in a room named
for their friend.
In addition, a street bears the name Patsy Cline Boulevard, off South Pleasant Valley Road,
a busy thoroughfare in her hometown.
Her final resting place is on the outskirts of her hometown at Shenandoah Memorial Park. The marker records her first name Virginia and married name from her husband Charlie Dick. People throw pennies on the site for good luck or to make a wish. A bell tower on the other side of the cemetery from her grave commemorates the last home of this famous resident.
Hometowns aren’t always kind to their most famous natives as they probably know them too well to be enamored with their success, but Winchester has come to honor the award-winning singer whose work has endured the test of time. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciencesrecognized Patsy with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 and Grammy Hall of Fame awards in 1992 and 2001 for her songs, “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces.”
Definitely, the most telling tribute in her hometown is the house, listed as state and national landmarks. A block party is held annually on Labor Day weekend to coincide with the celebration of her Sept. 8 birthday anniversary.
Save the Dates! A Patsy Cline Music Festival is planned for Labor Day Weekend starting on September 3rd through September 6th. Stay tuned for details about the national headliners and local talent to perform.
For those who make the pilgrimage, don’t forget to have “Sweet Dreams” as you travel the streets of her hometown, but don’t go too “Crazy.”
Photos from Patsy Cline Historic House