Patsy Cline’s daughter accepts tourism award
HARRISONBURG — “Her whole story is the American dream to a T.”
With those words, Corwyn Garman described the life of Virginia Patterson Hensley or Virginia Hensley Dick — who was known to most of the country as Patsy Cline — Wednesday night when the Valley native was honored at the 90th anniversary gala of the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association.
Garman, director of exhibitions at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, drove to Harrisonburg for the event, as did Cline’s daughter, Julie Fudge, who came from Nashville with her husband, Richard.
Fudge accepted the travel association’s honorary Shenandoah Bowl in honor of her mother’s contribution to Valley tourism. She said the award is not typical of the ones her late mother received over the years, most of which were for her place in country music.
“Now to receive a tourism award ... is quite a different award,” Fudge said of the country music icon, who died in a plane crash more than 50 years ago.
Fudge’s father, Cline’s second husband, Charlie Dick, 79, was invited but unable to attend the event at James Madison University’s Festival Conference and Student Center.
Gala attendees viewed and listened to an audio and video presentation that featured Cline being interviewed by CBS’ Arthur Godfrey on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” television program on Jan. 21, 1957.
The interview — in which Cline was introduced by her mother, Hilda Hensley — helped catapult Cline’s first hit, “Walkin’ After Midnight,” to the top of the charts. At the time of the interview, it was a regional hit, said Garman.
Cline, who was born in Winchester in 1932 before her family moved to a shack by the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in Elkton, Garman said, worked her way to stardom and helped put the Valley on the map.
“Mom and the family have always been proud of being from the Shenandoah Valley,” said Fudge, who was born in the Valley and lived in Winchester, where she attended school through second grade.
Fudge, who continues to return to the area each year, said she still has distant relatives in Elkton. Her maternal grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather — Samuel Hensley Jr., Samuel Hensley Sr. and Solomon Hensley — were from there.
Garman said Virginia Hensley Dick likely got her stage name, Patsy Cline, from her middle name, Patterson, and because the bandleader she sung with in 1953 and ’54 — Bill Peer — had a daughter named Patsy. The “Cline” portion came from her first husband, Gerald Cline, to whom she was married for about three years.
To her friends, she was known as “Ginny Hensley,” Garman said.
Garman noted that Cline also lived in Grottoes, Lexington, Edinburg, Winchester and Middletown.
Her parents — Hilda and Samuel Hensley Jr. — were seasonal laborers and moved around quite a bit, Garman said. Cline’s mother worked as a seamstress and farmer and her father was a blacksmith.
Cline died on March 5, 1963, in a plane crash near Camden, Tenn.
Her legacy lives on, however, and her name continues to generate tourism in the Valley.
John Shaffer, past president of the travel association, noted that the Patsy Cline Historic House in Winchester “has exploded because of the popularity of Patsy Cline.” The house opened in August 2011 and already has international acclaim, Shaffer said.
Cline lived in the home at 608 S. Kent St. from 1948 to 1957.
The Shenandoah Bowl was first presented in 1960. This year’s edition was engraved, “Virginia Hensley Dick (Patsy Cline).”