Grammy winner Randy Travis has had a few problems recently — his troubles with the law are well-documented — but a lot of his fans were pulling for him this week as he made headlines for another reason.
Travis, 54, was hospitalized with a viral respiratory illness that eventually required the insertion of a pump to help his heart increase blood flow, officials said. After heart surgery, he suffered a stroke and underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, according to Associated Press reports. He remained in critical condition at last report.
Members of his adopted hometown of Tioga, a community of 800 people in Grayson County, are among those rallying support.
“Pray for Randy Travis — ‘One of Our Own,’” is the message printed on two vinyl banners situated on the north and south sides of town, and some residents have put up similar signs along U.S. Highway 377, the main thoroughfare through the community, which lies just northeast of Denton near Ray Roberts Lake.
Travis and his fiancée, Mary Beougher, call Tioga home, and several of his neighbors took time Thursday to comment about the country music star.
Myrt Mitchell, owner of Myrt’s Paint and Body Shop, told us that the banners started as a Facebook conversation about what community members could do to show their support.
“This is about Randy and the outpouring of support our community wants to show him as a whole,” Mitchell said.
Travis is known around Tioga for his beneficence to city events through signed albums and guitars, residents told us, and he’s also known for being a down-to-earth person willing to talk to fans or pose for a photograph.
“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,” said James Hilliard, one of the owners of Clark’s Outpost B-B-Q.
Abby’s Cafe owner Lilian Avila called the news of Travis’ 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.”
Hilliard 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 39-year-old barbecue joint and would always make time for his fans.
Travis may have made a few headlines thanks to his run-ins with the law, but the people of Tioga continue to care about him, Hilliard told us. 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.”
We find the support for Travis shown by the people of Tioga to be commendable, but we’re not surprised — that’s what good neighbors do.
They pull together in good times and bad.