The holiday season can be filled with a number of magical moments that you can wrap yourself up in, just when you desperately need it. Yet sometimes, the cruelty of life slips into that precious time, and often takes our breath away.

That’s just what happened to a member of the country music family.

The holiday season was off to a beautiful start, as country music singer and piano player Bonnie Hearne was preparing to sing at Christmas Eve services at her New Mexico church when she began to experience some health difficulties.

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“She was supposed to sing with the Christ Church Santa Fe Chorale on Christmas Eve,” her husband and musical mate Bill said in an interview with the “Santa Fe New Mexican.” “We would have been married 47 years next Tuesday.”

But instead of heading to church, she went to the emergency room in an ambulance, after falling twice in her home. After being admitted to the intensive care center at the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center on Dec. 26, she succumbed to an internal bacterial infection known as sepsis.

She was 71 years old.

While many country music fans might not instantly recognize her name, chances are that they would recognize her musical talents. For decades, Bill and Bonnie delighted New Mexico audiences with an array of country and folk music. Through the years, Bonnie’s talents were also showcased on albums by musical greats such as Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker, Buck Owens and Emmylou Harris. In fact, both Nanci and Lyle ended up appearing on the Hearnes’ first major label record, “Diamonds in the Rough,” in 1997 on the Warner-Western label.

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“They used to play a place called Corky’s in the Montrose area of Houston,” Lyle once said in an interview with Taos News. “I would get a seat right up next to the stage and sit in front of Bill and try to figure out all his guitar licks.”

“Bill and Bonnie Hearne … play the best darn folk music I ever heard,” added Nanci.

Bonnie’s death comes just months after she and Bill had been recognized as the first group of New Mexico musicians to receive Platinum Music Awards for lifetime achievement from the New Mexico Music Commission Foundation.

What makes Bonnie’s accomplishments even more noteworthy is the fact that she was blind, having lost her sight at just 9 years old. Despite her so-called handicap, she learned to play piano at the Texas School for the Blind in Austin. Her husband Bill is also blind.

Besides her husband, Bonnie Hearne is survived by two brothers, Ernie Whitener and Bill Joe Whitener, both who reside in Texas.

Rare Country sends its condolences to all those who mourn the passing of this precious woman.

Tricia Despres is a senior correspondent for Rare Country, based out of Chicago. Join the conversation on Twitter at @RareCountry. We would love to see y’all there.
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