TIOGA — “A good ol’ boy” and “very personable” are just a few of the lasting impressions country star Randy Travis has left on community members in his adoptive hometown of Tioga, where he and his fiancee, Mary Beougher, call home.
Travis, 54, known for such hits as “Forever and Ever Amen” and “Three Wooden Crosses,” remained in critical condition at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano on Thursday morning after surgery to relieve pressure on his brain from a stroke, according to Associated Press reports.
This, several community members said, was a “turn he did not deserve.”
Myrt Mitchell, owner of Myrt’s Paint and Body Shop, said once the town heard the news of their “friendly neighbor,” they felt the need to show their support.
“It started out as a Facebook conversation on what we should do,” she said in her home Thursday afternoon. “Then Nickey [Mitchell, one of her “best friends”] suggested we make banners.”
Wednesday evening, two banners declaring “Pray for Randy Travis, ‘One of Our Own’” were put up on the north and south sides of town.
“It’s not about me. I just went and got the banners done,” Mitchell said humbly. “This is about Randy and the outpour of support our community wants to show him as a whole.”
Just hours before Travis suffered a stroke, a video conference released by his doctors Wednesday said he was showing signs of improvement since the start of his treatment Sunday for congestive heart failure.
“Randy Travis was admitted through an emergency department to Baylor Medical Center at McKinney on Sunday, July 7,” Dr. William Gray said in the video. “He had been in previously excellent health until three weeks prior, when he developed a viral upper respiratory illness.”
Doctors then decided it was time for Travis to seek attentive care in Plano.
On Monday, a spokeswoman for his publicist’s office in Nashville, Tenn., said the complications Travis suffered were from the insertion of a pump to help his heart increase blood flow.
Abby’s Cafe owner Lilian Avila, an area business owner for more than eight years, said while she hasn’t had an encounter with Travis like many of the locals have since moving into her downtown location eight months ago, she calls the news of his hospitalization as “very sad.”
“He has really given a lot back to his community,” Avila said. “He donates signed albums and guitars to the city and will participate in many of the area events, and I am just hoping he is able to pull through.”
James Hilliard, one of the owners of Clark’s Outpost Bar-B-Q, said Travis brought with him the same kind of enthusiasm and country and western charm that Gene Autry did many years ago.
“He treats people like he wants to be treated. We are a small town and that’s just how everyone acts here around one another,” he said.
Hilliard said Travis was a frequent visitor with Beougher at the town’s famous 39-year-old barbeque joint.
“I think he likes the smoked turkey best, but I am not sure,” he said. “He is very health conscious and watches what he eats.”
Hilliard, who started working at Clark’s at age 13, said Travis would always make time for his fans.
“He is just a real down-to-earth kind of guy, and even if he was in the middle of a meal, he would stop and pose for photos,” he said.
Last year, Travis made headlines running into the law, but that made no difference to his adoptive community.
He had nothing negative to say to the community, and the community had nothing negative to say about him, Hilliard said.
“We are forgiving and just want him to know we care and all our prayers are sent his way,” he said. “Prayers do help, and after all, he is one of our own.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.