Joyce Milsap, the wife of Country Music Hall of Fame member Ronnie Milsap, died on Monday (Sept. 6) at the age of 81. Taste of Country reports that the former Francis Joyce Reeves' passing was confirmed by her husband's record label, Black River Entertainment.
The Oak Ridge Boys tweeted about Joyce's death on Monday afternoon.
"Joyce and Ronnie Milsap have had a renowned and well known romance through 54 years of marriage ... She passed on to Glory this morning ... love and prayers to our brother," read the quartet's social media post.
The couple met in the early '60s at a dinner party thrown by one of Joyce's cousins. At the time, Ronnie was a student at Young Harris College in Georgia and a law school hopeful. They wed in 1965 and were side-by-side throughout Ronnie's legendary career, which jumpstarted after their 1972 move to Nashville.
"I told Joyce that maybe I should have listened to the folks at Young Harris and in North Carolina and gone on to law school," Milsap told the Augusta Chronicle in 2013. "But she said, 'No, no, what we're going to do is go to Nashville and see how that works.' She's the one who said, 'We've got to try Nashville or you never will be happy until we try it.' I said, 'Well, let's go.'"
Their love story impacted Ronnie's incredible run, from session work in Memphis for Elvis Presley (he's the piano player on "Kentucky Rain") to a string of country singles that netted six Grammy awards and a whopping 40 No. 1s on the Billboard charts.
"When people tell me they love my music, I always smile, because that music is pure Joyce. We went through lean times laughing, good times beyond our imagination, tough times where we held on to each other for dear life," Ronnie said (as quoted by Taste of Country). "Blessedly/Thankfully, she's in heaven with our Todd - and I know somehow from heaven, she's still here with me every day, because that's just how she was."
It is with great sorrow that I post this photo of Ronnie Milsap my friend for more than 50 years and his beloved wife...
Though no cause of death has been announced, longtime family friend Sam Moore wrote on Facebook that "Joyce had leukemia and she suffered for many years with it and from it."
Ronnie's signature songs include "Smoky Mountain Rain," "It Was Almost Like a Song," "Any Day Now," "Pure Love," "Stranger in My House," "(There's) No Gettin' Over Me," "Lost In The Fifties Tonight (In The Still Of The Night)" and "I Wouldn't Have Missed It For the World."