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Loretta Lynn [Left], Nancy Jones [Right] | Source: Getty Images
Loretta Lynn [Left], Nancy Jones [Right] | Source: Getty Images

Loretta Lynn's Son Found Dead by River about 3 Miles from Family Ranch – Tragic Details of His Death

Odette Odendaal
Jun 27, 2024
06:25 A.M.

Loretta Lynn reached great success as a singer but as a mother, she had to face the unexpected loss of a son, and it led to what the country music superstar described as divine intervention.

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Loretta Lynn went from cleaning houses to selling over 45 million records worldwide while being a mother to 6 kids and a wife. The road was long and often turned "from misery to happiness — and sometimes back to misery," sadly this rang true when she lost her eldest son.

The country music superstar became a mother to six children in total, with the first four already born by the time she cut her first record, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," in 1960.

Loretta Lynn attends the 47th Annual Grammy Awards | Source: Getty Images

Loretta Lynn attends the 47th Annual Grammy Awards | Source: Getty Images

Loretta Lynn's Children

The singer married Oliver “Mooney” Lynn on January 10, 1948, and the couple’s family soon started to grow. Before the end of 1948, Loretta gave birth to her first child and daughter, Betty Sue.

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Loretta Lynn and her husband Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, at the Country & Western Music Awards, Hollywood, California, February 27, 1975 | Source: Getty Images

Loretta Lynn and her husband Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, at the Country & Western Music Awards, Hollywood, California, February 27, 1975 | Source: Getty Images

The couple then welcomed their first son, Jack Benny a year later on December 7, 1949. Almost two years passed before Loretta and Oliver added Ernest Ray to their family on May 27, 1951, followed by Clara Marie on April 7, 1952.

As Loretta’s family grew, so did monetary concerns. They were not getting by on Oliver’s meager salary as a mechanic, even with Loretta cleaning houses in between tending to her young family. So with Oliver’s encouragement, they moved from Washington State to Nashville so Loretta could pursue her career in all earnest.

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Loretta made her first appearance at Music City's Grand Ole Opry on October 15, 1960, and her career had already skyrocketed by the time she gave birth to twin daughters Peggy Jean and Patsy Eileen on August 6, 1964.

Her career meant Loretta spent a lot of time away from her young family — a price that had long-lasting consequences on her life. "You never catch up the lost time. That time's gone," she said.

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It wasn't unusual for Loretta to miss special occasions, holidays, or normal family time, which made touring "rough" for her. She went from spending hours a day to hardly any time with them at all, and it took a toll on her.

"I was working clubs, and I was doing like three and four shows a night," Loretta recalled. Even while pregnant with twins Patsy Eileen and Peggy Jean the country singer didn't let up on her busy schedule. "I'd play shows right up until the babies was born and that guitar around my neck just about killed me. I don't advise it to any mother," she added.

Loretta Lynn, her husband Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, and five of their six children | Source: Instagram/lorettalynnofficial

Loretta Lynn, her husband Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, and five of their six children | Source: Instagram/lorettalynnofficial

Burying the Son She Felt 'Most Sentimental' About

Tragedy struck when Loretta’s one son died unexpectedly while in the prime of his life. Named after Loretta’s favorite comedian, he didn’t pursue a career in the music industry. Instead, he lived on the family’s Hurricane Mills ranch and worked as a blacksmith.

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According to the singer’s daughter Patsy, "she tore all to pieces" upon hearing the news of his death. They put her on a chartered flight to Nashville, where she would stay in a hospital until his funeral.

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When the day arrived, over 300 mourners gathered at the Luff-Bowen funeral home in Waverly while a tape played Willie Nelson's "Uncloudy Day" and "Amazing Grace." While Loretta wept quietly during the service and the ride to their family burial plot at Hurricane Mills, she lost all composure as the casket was about to be lowered into the ground.

Loretta started sobbing uncontrollably and had to be supported and helped back to the car after her knees buckled. "It's finally started to hit her," her manager, David Skepner, noted.

Country music queen Loretta Lynn, center, is assisted by her husband, Mooney,  on July 27, 1984, in Waverly, Tennessee, as they leave the funeral of their son | Source: Getty Images

Country music queen Loretta Lynn, center, is assisted by her husband, Mooney, on July 27, 1984, in Waverly, Tennessee, as they leave the funeral of their son | Source: Getty Images

How Loretta Coped with Her Son's Death

Everything Loretta did was for her family. "Family means everything to me," she said. And it's because of Loretta's love for and devotion to her family and their well-being that the unexpected loss of her eldest son had had enough of an impact on her that she said it led to an intervention by God.

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Loretta Lynn in Los Angeles, California on October 21, 1989 | Source: Getty Images

Loretta Lynn in Los Angeles, California on October 21, 1989 | Source: Getty Images

At the time of his death, Loretta came down with an illness the media labeled as exhaustion, but she reportedly set the record straight later on by clarifying that she had suffered a seizure. "I think the seizure was God's way of saying he's helping me. He's really not letting my mind cope with it yet," she said.

Loretta Lynn's late son, Jack Benny Lynn | Source: Instagram/lorettalynnofficial

Loretta Lynn's late son, Jack Benny Lynn | Source: Instagram/lorettalynnofficial

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Details of Loretta's Son's Death

In July 1984, Jack Benny, the child Loretta said in her autobiography she felt "most sentimental about," died from a tragic drowning incident.

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Loretta and Jack Benny shared a close bond. As Loretta's one daughter recalled, "They were very close. It was probably because he took after my dad."

Jack Benny was riding his quarter horse, Black Jack, on the family's 5,000-acre ranch, Hurricane Mills, in Tennessee, when he drowned about 4 miles from where he lived with his wife, Barbara.

Jack Benny Lynn on July 25, 1984, in Waverly, Tennessee | Source: Getty Images

Jack Benny Lynn on July 25, 1984, in Waverly, Tennessee | Source: Getty Images

The 34-year-old was trying to ford the treacherous Duck River on horseback when the incident occurred, and Black Jack was later found unharmed but trapped along the river bank.

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Loretta's Tribute to Jack Benny Shortly before Her Death

Loretta's tribute to Jack Benny in July 2022 consisted of throwback images and a short caption, "Today is 38 years without my Jack." Three months after Loretta's posts, she passed away as well.

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In a statement, her family shared that she had died at her Hurricane Mills home in her sleep. She was 90.

While Loretta Lynn will always be remembered for her illustrious career, including the story about her life, "Coal Miner's Daughter," her devotion to family and community also left an indelible mark on her legacy. Though she had a life filled with major gains and losses, she never stopped giving, and she never gave up.

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