Ronnie Milsap's Wife Joyce Dies at 81: 'She Was the Love of My Life'

"When people tell me they love my music, I always smile, because that music is pure Joyce," Milsap said of his late wife

Joyce and Ronnie Mislap with son Todd
Photo: Raimondo Borea/AP/Shutterstock

Ronnie Milsap's wife, Joyce Reeves Milsap, has died at age 81.

On Tuesday, Ronnie Milsap confirmed in an official obituary obtained by PEOPLE that his wife of 54 years — whom he lovingly called "my Sapphire" — had died.

"There are no words, and not enough songs in the world to explain how much I love my Sapphire," Milsap, 78, said.

"She was the music and the feeling inside all of those songs, so if you loved my music, you understand some of how much I loved my my beautiful, beautiful wife," he added. "It's all in the songs, but she was even more. She was the love of my life, the mother of my son, the world's happiest grandmother."

Milsap continued to open up about his love for his late wife.

"When people tell me they love my music, I always smile, because that music is pure Joyce. We went through lean times laughing, good times beyond our imagination, tough times where we held on to each other for dear life," Milsap said.

"Blessedly/Thankfully, she's in heaven with our Todd – and I know somehow from heaven, she's still here with me every day, because that's just how she was," he added, referring to the loss of their 49-year-old son Todd in 2019.

Joyce was the inspiration behind many the country singer's biggest hits including: "She Keeps The Home Fires Burning" "Daydreams About Night Things," "Smokey Mountain Rain," "Show Her," "Don't You Know How Much I Love You," "A Woman In Love" and "What A Difference You've Made in My Life."

He also wrote about what the loss of their love might be like in "Almost Like A Song," "Still Losing You," "I Wouldn't Have Missed It For The World" and "Lost in the '50s Tonight."

Joyce battled leukemia in 2014, according to USA Today. At the time, she was unable to attend the ceremony where he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

"It's always been a dream to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame," he said at the time to the outlet. "That's the highest honor they can bestow. Joycie has been with me through all of this. She's seen me through."

Milsap and Joyce met at a dinner party in the early 1960s — which Milsap, who is blind, calls "love at first sound."

Joyce was also responsible for encouraging her husband throughout his career. It was her idea to move to Nashville in 1972 to further his career, and she was known to vet songs that were pitched to him.

The Oak Ridge Boys, who were a friend of the couples' tweeted a tribute in her honor.

"Joyce [and] Ronnie Milsap have had a renowned and well known romance through 54 years of marriage .. She Passed on to Glory this morning ... love and prayers to our brother ... @ronniemilsap," they wrote.

Meanwhile, Sam Moore, who was also good friends with the couple made a touching post, reflecting on the couple's relationship.

"It is with great sorrow that I post this photo of Ronnie Milsap my friend for more than 50 years and his beloved wife Joyce who passed away this morning," Moore wrote. "Joyce had leukemia and she suffered for many years with it and from it."

"She was an amazing wonderful woman a devoted wife a loving mother and a dear dear dear friend. Rest in heaven Joyce Milsap let God hold you in his arms and be with the Angels," he added.

Katie Cook, an anchor at CMT: Hot 20 said Joyce was "so much more than a superstar's wife."

"She was the backbone of the operation. Sure, she nailed the Christmas decorations, gifts and cards and, of course, always looked the part, she practically wrote the book on how to do the whole star's wife thing. Behind it all, though, she was Ronnie's secret weapon, his rock, his 'Sapphire,'" Cook said.

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