Family, friends, fans tour childhood Winchester home

Correction: A photo caption published Tuesday should have stated that Charlie Dick and Julie Fudge presented Judy Sue Huyett-Kempf with a framed Patsy Cline album.

By Sally Voth — svoth@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER — Nearly 50 years after Winchester’s most famous daughter died in a plane crash, her family, friends and fans gathered for the grand opening of her girlhood home.

Legendary singer Patsy Cline lived at 608 S. Kent St. with her mother, Hilda Hensley, and siblings, Sam and Sylvia, from 1948 to 1953.

Saturday’s celebration was 19 years in the making, said JudySue Huyett-Kempf, executive director of the Patsy Cline Historic House.

“Today means many years of wishes, plans, dreams, and finally the whole package was opened,” she said as fans lined up to tour the house and danced to the music of The James Boys, a Loudoun County band. “It’s like taking a long time to wrap a gift and finally you can untie it for the world to see.”

Cline’s husband, daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were among those going in and out of the two-story, white-sided house with a tin roof.

“This is special,” her daughter, Julie Fudge, said. “I know my grandmother would’ve loved to have seen the house preserved, and I think about her, and I hope that she would be happy.”

Hilda Hensley, who died in 1998, kept the house long after her daughter moved out, although she spent some time in another house on Kent Street, Fudge said. She herself lived with her grandmother in the house for some time after her mother died in 1963, when Fudge was just 4 years old.

“I remember quite a bit [about Cline] for that age, and yet I feel very lucky because everybody remembers her for me and keeps that in my mind,” she said. “When you lose somebody, you want to try to remember and not forget. I’m glad that people have helped us keep the memory alive. It keeps her alive to us.”

Some of the furniture and decorations inside the home did belong to Cline and her family, while others are period pieces. The original part of the house was built in 1850, chief docent Joe Richards said.

A replica costume is on display beside a sewing machine in the living room. In the tiny yellow kitchen is a miniature gift shop.

Cline’s husband, Charlie Dick, said the ribbon cutting “was a long time coming.”

“But I think they did a hell of a job,” he said. “I’ve never seen the house look that good, to be honest with you.”

Dick remembers the night he met his future wife — Friday, April 13, 1956.

“Met her in Berryville at a dance,” he said. “Next night, I got her and took her to D.C. for a Jimmy Dean show.”

Although his late wife’s records were occasionally still being played on the radio, it was the 1980 movie about Loretta Lynn, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which also featured Cline, that renewed her popularity, Dick said. Since then, Cline’s fan base has grown.

“I have calls from kids and teenagers,” Dick said. “They know more about Patsy than I do. I just want to thank everybody for all the great work they’ve done.”

Tyrone Hunter brought his 15-year-old daughter from Sterling when he heard about the dedication.

“I found out about Patsy Cline when I watched ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,'” he said.

Hunter fell in love with her voice.

“She doesn’t sound like anybody else,” he said. “When you hear her voice, you instantly know it’s her. That voice is totally unique. There’s nobody like her. [I’m] trying to culture my daughter as well. The world is not all hip-hop music.”

Lexington, Ky., resident Jimmy Walker, 44, has been a member of the Always Patsy Cline Fan Club for half his life. He appreciates the singer’s “wonderful production, the voice and the emotions that she exudes.”

Norm and Annie Armstrong share a personal connection with Cline and have been coming to Winchester from their home in Guelph, Ontario, for 20 years.

“We met her and became instant friends,” Mrs. Armstrong said. “She was wonderful. She was kind, thoughtful, funny. We wrote letters to each other, which I still have.”

Her husband added, “Every time she came to Canada, she invited us to the show. She said, ‘Come in the back door.'”

He said Cline introduced them to fellow stars Loretta Lynn, Dottie West and Jean Shepard.

Mrs. Armstrong, 85, met Cline when she won tickets to her show from a radio station.

“It’s amazing what the friendship turned into,” she said. “Julie’s kids still call me Granny Annie.

“Being here, I think, is the most honorable thing I will ever do.”