Bill Owens, Dolly Parton‘s uncle and a songwriter for some of country music’s biggest names, has died, according to a touching tribute written by Parton.
Owens, who was an artist himself, took Parton to local performances when she was younger and helped her get her first gig on the “Cas Walker Show.” As Parton climbed the charts and made history, Owens was there, supporting her along the way.
He wrote “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” with Parton, which went on to win the 1966 BMI Song of the Year award. But that’s not the only hit he had.
Owens wrote songs that were recorded by Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Ricky Skaggs, Kris Kristofferson and others. Although Owens worked behind the scenes most of the time, Parton wrote that he enjoyed traveling with famous artists and occasionally playing his guitar on stage.
Owens was also passionate about his work at Dollywood and protecting endangered plants in the park.
Parton wrote that Owens partnered with Dollywood, The American Chestnut Foundation, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and The American Eagle Foundation to bring the native chestnut tree back to the Great Smoky Mountains area. He and his wife, Sandy, also planted 70,000 trees across the park property.
“I bet a lot of our own relatives don’t even know all of the great things that Uncle Bill did behind the scenes through his life. But the greatest thing he ever did for me was to help me see my dreams come true and for that I will be forever grateful,” Parton wrote.
“I’m sure that Uncle Bill’s friends, fans, his wife Sandy, his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will join me when I say that we will always love you. Rest in peace, Uncle Bill.”
Read Parton’s full farewell for her Uncle Bill Owens on her website.