LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — To most, Naomi Judd's passing over the weekend signified the loss of a great Country music artist. But those who knew her best will remember her for so much more than the music that made her a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee.
"What I remember most about her is how good she always was to me and everybody I ever saw her with," said Silas House.
Mr. House is an accomplished author based in Lexington. 15 years ago, he became friends with Naomi after working on a film project with her daughter, Ashley. He spoke in reverent tones about his friend, recalling the time she was given an honorary doctorate by Berea College in Madison County.
"All of the people there, while she was riding away on a golf cart, wanted to see her, touch her," he said before noting that she stopped the cart to make sure to try to connect with everyone there.
House often dined with Judd and talked about her intelligence and passion for reading. He also discussed her battle with mental health issues, which Ashley and her sister, Wynonna (Naomi's singing and songwriting partner), said was the cause of death.
"She always had the intention to help others by telling her own story. I think that's one of the reasons she was so admired," House added.
Across town, someone with a decades-long connection to Naomi was also still trying to make sense of it all.
"I'm just devastated," said Karl Shannon.
Shannon, a disc jockey with HANK 105.5 in Lexington, met Naomi many years ago during a telethon. The two grew to become so close that when Karl's mother was terminally ill, Naomi was there for him when he needed it most.
While holding a gift Judd gave Shannon to pass along to his mother, he spoke of the item.
"It's a porcelain nightlight," he said. "She said there's only four, and that Wynonna has one, Ashley has one, one of my best friends has one, and I want your mom to have one,'" he explained.
Shannon said his mom cherished that nightlight until the day she died nearly thirty years ago.
There are two more gifts Karl holds close to his heart: a wristwatch Naomi gave him for Christmas after his mother had died. And a prayer book she offered him before her passing.
"It's a God's Promise book. She said, 'I know you're going through some tough times, so when you're feeling really bad, just open it up and read,'" he remembered.
Inside is a handwritten note from Naomi wishing Karl well and explaining how the same book has helped her navigate some difficult times in her own life.
"She was a rock to me. She was just a wonderful, wonderful person," Shannon added.
One who didn't require an induction ceremony to be considered a Hall of Famer. At least not in the minds of these two men.