Penny Jackson Ragsdale, the wife of country music legend Ray Stevens, died Friday night after a battle with cancer. She was 78. Her death came after Stevens, 82, canceled his New Year's Eve show at his CabaRay Showroom in Nashville to be by her side.
Ragsdale died at the couple's Nashville home on Friday, reports Country Music Television. She is survived by Stevens, their daughters Timi and Suzi, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Ragsdale and Stevens were married for over 60 years. Stevens kept his personal life out of the spotlight, but Ragsdale did join him for his Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2019.
On Sept. 29, Stevens' team announced the singer would not be performing on New Year's Eve at CabaRay after Ragsdale's illness rapidly progressed. "It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you Ray's wife, Penny, has had a prolonged illness and has suddenly and rapidly progressed to the end-of-life stage, and Ray is devastated," the statement read. "His only focus right now is her. Regretfully, Ray will not be able to perform the New Year's Eve show scheduled at the CabaRay, it has been canceled. We are incredibly sorry for the inconvenience and hope you all understand. Please send your thoughts and prayers to Ray and his family during this difficult time."
Stevens' fans sent their thoughts and prayers to his family. "So sorry to hear this sad news. Prayers for all in the hope their wonderful memories will give their hearts peace and comfort," one fan wrote on Facebook. "Thoughts and prayers for Penny, Ray, family, and close friends. I wish them peace in this troubling time," another wrote.
Stevens is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He won the Best Contemporary Male Vocalist Grammy Award in 1971 for "Everything Is Beautiful" and the Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) Grammy in 1976 for "Misty." Stevens' other hit songs include "Gitarzan," "Along Came Jones," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "Indian Love Call," "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills," and "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex."
"This is, without a doubt, the greatest honor that anybody could ever receive, not only in Nashville but in any place in the world, the greatest music business honor," Stevens said after his County Music Hall of Fame induction was announced. "It's almost too much to take in, to be recognized as being worthy of joining this group of folks who are already members of the Hall of Fame, who I have admired for many years."