A beloved Dollywood greeter passed away unexpectedly in December 2021 at the age of 94, TODAY has confirmed.
Johnnie Crawford — who was known as “Ms. Johnnie” — began working at the theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, when it opened in 1986.
According to her family, she never missed a day of work in her 32 years.
Crawford spent most of her time on the property hosting guests at the Chasing Rainbows Museum, which tells Dolly Parton’s rags-to-riches life story.
“She often said her favorite part of the job was being able to meet so many different people and learn about them,” Dollywood officials told TODAY in a statement. “It was a common sight to see her fellow Dollywood hosts stopping by to say hello and enjoy time with her.”
In 2017, Crawford opened up to 10 News about what it was like working for the iconic country singer.
“It seems like (Dolly) recognizes us,” Crawford said. “‘Oh, you’re still here?’ she’ll say. ‘Yeah, I’m still here, Dolly. I’m gonna stay as long as long as you are!’”
At the time, Crawford said she had no plans to retire, noting that she was “really happy.”
“I’ve seen people from all over the world,” Crawford shared. “And I found out one thing meeting people from all over the world: We’re all the same.”
In her obituary, Crawford was remembered as a “great friend” and “an Angel.” She died on Dec. 18, 2021.
“Johnnie grew up in during the Great Depression and learned how to survive on very little,” the obituary reads in part. “She was tough and gentle. She would wake up at 4:30 every morning and walk her dog Gypsie. She loved to work, stayed happy and ate what she wanted, including tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches. She will be missed by so many.”
Many are sharing memories on the funeral home website.
One person wrote, “What stories she could tell about her life, Dolly, and her love of Dollywood. I never once heard her say a negative word about anyone or anything. We joked all the time. She was so much fun to be around.
“Heaven will open its arms to her. I was blessed to have known her.”