Larry Strickland Remembers His Wife, Naomi Judd: ‘She Never Met a Stranger’
Larry Strickland, Naomi Judd's husband of 32 years, took the Ryman Auditorium stage to share a moving story from his wife's final hours during a public memorial service on Sunday (May 15).
Strickland joined Naomi's daughters, Wynonna and Ashley Judd, to make his first public appearance since his wife's death on April 30. The family were gathered for Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration, an emotional tribute to the country star's life and music.
Still grieving from the loss of his wife, Strickland used the opportunity to share an unexpected email he received from a stranger the day after Naomi's death. The man explained how he had spend a few hours sitting next to Naomi Judd on plane, heading from Austria back to Nashville on April 29.
"'Larry you don't know me, we've never met, but I was fortunate enough to meet your late wife recently who for some reason only she knew gave me your card,'" Strickland read. The man went on to describe an "entertaining, fascinating and enlightening" conversation he had over the lengthy international flight.
"'Obviously I didn't know Naomi at all, but I can tell you she spoke highly and warmly of you and the life you shared together,'" Strickland's voice began to shake as he read the remainder of the email message. "'Rest assured she loved you and had no qualms about telling me, a stranger on a plane, that was so. I do hope you forgive this intrusion from a complete stranger at this difficult time. It was the measure of the impact that your wife had me that compelled me to write.'"
Strickland went on to explain how the message had comforted him in the painful hours following Naomi's passing.
"I was really scared to death about her flying all the way along home from Vienna back to Nashville because I knew how fragile she was," Strickland said. "This email was such a relief and comfort to me."
Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration aired live on CMT and was simultaneously available for streaming online. During the event, Wynonna Judd officially announced that she would move forward with the 10 concert dates previously announced as the Judds' Final Tour.
The public memorial service also included performances from an array of artists who were close to the Judd family, including Little Big Town, Carly Pearce and Brandi Carlile.