A Timeline of Hardships and Tragedies Faced by the Oak Ridge Boys in 2024

2024 has been a year packed with tragedy for the Oak Ridge Boys. It started when Joe Bonsall stepped down from the band due to health issues in January. After that, the floodgates of sorrow seemed to open on the band. Deaths of family members came in quick succession as the sun rose on spring. Most recently, Bonsall passed away earlier today (July 9).

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After announcing their farewell tour and receiving a Tennessee Music Pathways marker at the Grove Theater in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the group ended 2023 on a high note. Unfortunately, that momentum didn’t carry over into the new year. Below is a timeline of the hardships and tragedies the band has faced this year.

Joe Bonsall Says Farewell to the Oak Ridge Boys

Joy Bonsall joined the Oak Ridge Boys as a tenor singer in 1973. He was the face and public voice of the group for much of his five-decade tenure. Then, in January, he announced that his health forced him to walk away from the band.

[RELATED: After 50 Years, Joe Bonsall Bids Farewell to The Oak Ridge Boys; Replacement Revealed]

Bonsall took to social media on January 3 to announce his departure from the group. “Many of you know I have been battling the slow onset of a neuromuscular disorder,” he wrote. “I am now to a point where walking is impossible, so I have basically retired from the road. It has just gotten too difficult,” he added. “It has been a great 50 years and I am thankful to all the Oak Ridge Boys band, crew, and staff for the constant love and support shown to me through it all.”

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis took Bonsall’s ability to walk. The disorder would later take his life. However, it didn’t take away his faith or his light. He thanked those who had held him up in prayer and asked that they continued to do so. Then, he named his replacement. “There is a young man named Ben James singing for me out there and he needs your love and encouragement,” he wrote in his statement. “His sound is different than mine but he brings a ton of talent to the table,” he added. He concluded the statement with “God’s Got It!”

Donnie Carr’s Mother Passed in March

Bonsall’s retirement was a hit to the band. However, it would pale in comparison to the next loss they took. In March, longtime guitarist Donnie Guitar Carr’s mother, Phyllis Faye Carr, passed away at the age of 88. More than Carr’s mother, she was a member of the group’s extended family.

The Oak Ridge Boys took to social media to mark her passing on March 13. “Our guitar player for a few decades Donnie Guitar Carr’s mom has gone home to be with Jesus,” they wrote. “We all loved Mama Carr,” they added.

Easter Sunday Brings Two Deaths

As the sun rose on Easter Sunday (March 31), the Oak Ridge Boys lost two cherished members of their extended family. First, Norah Lee Allen, a member of the Grand Ole Opry and longtime wife of Duane Allen passed away after a long illness. The 76-year-old singer left this world at Vanderbilt Hospital surrounded by her family.

[RELATED: Oak Ridge Boys Mourning Two Deaths in 24 Hours on Sad Easter Sunday]

Hours later, Richard Sterban’s wife, Donna Sterban lost her father.

Former Oak Ridge Boy William Lee Golden Loses His Son

On July 2, former Oak Ridge Boys member William Lee Golden took to social media to announce the passing of his son, Rusty. At 65, the younger Golden had made a name for himself as a singer, songwriter, and musician. “This is the hardest thing ever for a father to have to face. I love my family more than anything… We appreciate your thoughts and prayers for the days ahead. I love you, son,” Golden shared in a statement.

Joe Bonsall Passes Away

Just days later, on July 9, longtime Oak Ridge Boys member, author, and philanthropist Joe Bonsall passed away. The disorder that led to him stepping away from the group in January continued to progress. He passed away surrounded by his loved ones at the age of 76.

Featured Image by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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