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Knowing of Your Own Death

 

Patsy Cline died in a plane crash in March of 1963, near Camden, Tennessee. The plane flew
into severe weather, and according to Cline's wristwatch, crashed at 6:20 p.m. in a forest outside
of Camden, Tennessee, ninety miles from the destination. Everyone died instantly from their
injuries. Throughout the night, reports of the missing plane flooded the radio airwaves.
As stated in the Nassour biography, Patsy Cline, friends Dottie West and June Carter Cash
both recalled Cline telling them that she felt a sense of impending doom and didn't expect to live
much longer in the months leading up to her death. Cline also told Loretta Lynn of this, along
with Carter and West, as early as September 1962. Cline, though known for her extreme generosity,
even began giving away personal items to friends, writing out her own last will on Delta Air
Lines stationery and asking close friends to care for her children if anything should happen to her.
She reportedly told Jordanaire back up singer Ray Walker as she exited the Grand Ole Opry a
week before her death: "Honey, I've had two bad ones (accidents). The third one will either be a
charm or it'll kill me."

On March 3, 1963, Cline, though ill with the flu, gave a performance at a benefit show at the
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas, for the family of a disc jockey, Cactus
Jack Call, who had recently died in an automobile accident. Also performing on the show were
George Jones, George Riddle and The Jones Boys, Billy Walker, Dottie West, Cowboy Copas,
Hawkshaw Hawkins, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, and George McCormick and the Clinch
Mountain Clan. The three shows, at 2:00, 5:15 and 8:00 p.m. were standing-room only. For the 2
p.m. show, she wore a sky-blue tulle-laden dress, for the 5:15 show a red shocker and for the closing
show at 8 p.m. Cline wore a white chiffon gown and closed the show with her performance
to a thunderous ovation. Her last song was the last one she recorded during her last sessions the
previous month, "I'll Sail My Ship Alone."

Dottie West, wary of Cline flying, asked her to ride back in the car with her and her husband,
Bill. Cline, anxious to get home to her children, refused West's offer, saying, "Don't worry about
me, Hoss. When it's my time to go, it's my time." Poor weather delayed their departure by a day,
and on March 5, she called her mother from the airport and then boarded a Piper Comanche
bound for Nashville. The pilot was her manager Randy Hughes, with passengers Cowboy
Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, who had taken Billy Walker's seat. After stopping to refuel in
Dyersburg, Tennessee, the plane took off at 6:07 p.m. CT. According to revelations by the airfield
manager in the Nassour biography, he suggested that they stay the night after advising of high
winds and inclement weather on the flight path, but Hughes responded, "I've already come this
far. We'll be there before you know it."

Roger Miller told Patsy Cline author Nassour that he and a friend went searching for survivors
in the early hours of the morning: "As fast as I could, I ran through the woods screaming
their names—through the brush and the trees, and I came up over this little rise, oh, my God,
there they were. It was ghastly. The plane had crashed nose down." Not long after the bodies were
removed, scavengers came to take what they could of the stars' personal belongings and pieces of
the plane. Many of these items were later donated to The Country Music Hall of Fame, including
Patsy's beloved Confederate Flag cigarette lighter which played "Dixie," her wrist watch, belt
with "Patsy Cline" studded across it and one of three pairs of her gold lamé slippers which were
featured on the revised version of her Showcase with The Jordanaires album. However, the white
chiffon dress that Cline had worn for her last performance and the money bag carrying the star's
payment for their last concert were never found.

As per her wishes, Cline was brought home to her dream house for the last time before her memorial service, which thousands attended. Hours later, news surfaced that singer Jack Anglin of country duo Johnnie & Jack fame had died on the way to her service, and the Opry mounted a tribute show to honor the victims.

She was buried in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia, at Shenandoah Memorial Park. Her
grave is marked with a simple bronze plaque, which reads: Virginia H (Patsy) Cline "Death Cannot
Kill What Never Dies: Love." A bell tower in her memory at the cemetery, erected with the help of
Loretta Lynn and Dottie West, plays hymns daily at 6 p.m., the hour of her death. A memorial marks
the place where the plane crashed in the still-remote forest outside of Camden, Tennessee.


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