Larry Strickland Recalls Days Before Wife Naomi Judd's Death: 'I Knew How Fragile She Was'

"I was really scared to death about her flying alone all the way from Vienna back to Nashville cause I knew how fragile she was," Strickland said during CMT's Naomi Judd: A River of Time special

Larry Strickland is sharing sweet memories of his late wife, Naomi Judd.

During CMT's Naomi Judd: A River of Time memorial special on Sunday, Strickland took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, to speak about the country legend, who died by suicide at 76 on April 30.

"Naomi never met a stranger," said Strickland, who married Naomi in 1989, while standing alongside her daughters, Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd. "Much to my displeasure, she would start a conversation with anyone who made eye contact with her, and we would end up standing 10, 20, 30 minutes on a sidewalk while she talked to a complete stranger about their passions and their dog."

He then shared how Naomi flew home from Vienna, Austria, in anticipation of the Country Music Hall of Fame ceremony, and he noted it was unusual for her to fly alone. She returned through Chicago on April 29, the day before her death and two days before the Hall of Fame induction.

"I was really scared to death about her flying alone all the way from Vienna back to Nashville cause I knew how fragile she was," said Strickland. "Well, she made the flight home without any problem."

Larry Strickland, Ashley Judd, and Wynonna Judd
Larry Strickland, Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd. Mickey Bernal/Getty

During her flight, Naomi apparently made quite the impression on the man seated next to her, as he sent Strickland an email shortly after her death.

Referring to the message as "a relief and comfort," Strickland said the man didn't realize Naomi was famous upon boarding the plane with her. However, he told her husband the "next 90 minutes we spent in each other's company was not only entertaining, fascinating and enlightening, but for me at least, thoroughly enjoyable" in the letter.

"It's a small comfort, I'm sure, but my life seems a lot richer after meeting your wife, however briefly," continued the note, which visibly sparked an emotional response from Strickland onstage.

"Obviously, I didn't know Naomi at all, but I can tell you she spoke highly and warmly of you, and the life you shared together," read the heartfelt email, which Strickland recited while choking up. "Rest assured she loved you and had no qualms about telling me, a stranger on a plane, that was so."

The man concluded his letter by telling Strickland about the "measure and impact" his late wife left on him during the brief time they spent together, and Strickland told the audience the message provided "great, great pleasure and comfort to me."

Naomi Judd: 'A River Of Time' Celebration
The crowd at the Ryman. Mickey Bernal/Getty

Elsewhere during the memorial ceremony, an emotional Wynonna, 57 — who performed alongside Naomi as country duo The Judds — revealed she plans to fulfill the planned dates of their upcoming "Final Tour."

"I've made a decision, and I thought I'd share it on national television that, after a lot of thought, I'm gonna have to honor her and do this tour," Wynonna, tears streaming down her cheeks, told the crowd, as well as CMT viewers at home. "The show must go on, as hard as it may be, and we will show up together, and you will carry me as you've carried me for 38 years ... So we will continue this spectacle. That's what she would want, right?"

Wynonna Judd, Ashley Judd, and Larry Strickland
Elijah Kelley, Wynonna Judd, Ashley Judd and Larry Strickland. Katie Kauss/Getty

Her onstage announcement — answered with thunderous applause and cheers — arrived near the end of an evening that was, as Wynonna described it herself, "devastatingly beautiful." The event took listeners not only through many of The Judds' most timeless classics, but also deep into other music that had touched both women's hearts.

Ashley, 54, opened the evening with a welcome to country music's hallowed Mother Church, explaining that "this is where Mom wanted her public celebration to take place."

She went on to describe her mother as "everywoman. Perhaps this is why everyone felt they knew her." And yet, she added, "she was totally extraordinary: the five-time Grammy award winner, the multi-platinum artist, the Hall of Famer who was lauded by millions."

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