George Strait is set to perform during the 54th Academy of Country Music Awards tonight, alongside Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn, Miranda Lambert, and many more.
With all eyes on Strait during his performance, fans of the country music star may be wondering about Strait’s personal life, his wife and his family. Strait has been married to his wife Norma for more than four decades, and the couple has unfortunately dealt with terrible tragedy throughout their 47 years together.
Here’s what you need to know about Strait’s children, wife and family:
1. Strait & Norma Were Childhood Sweethearts & Strait Almost Didn’t Call Her Back After Their First Date
Strait and his wife Norma had known each other most of their lives before they started dating. They grew up in a small town, and Strait eventually asked her out on a date, but almost missed out on the love of his life when he didn’t call her back for several weeks.
“Norma was the first girl I ever loved,” he told country radio station the Bull 100.3. “We knew each other forever, growing up in a small town. I never really even thought anything about her, but then one day I asked her out and we went on a date. We didn’t see each other for a long time after that. Then one day, I thought, ‘I’m missing the boat here,’ and we started dating again.”
2. The Couple Eloped Before He Joined The Army in 1971 & Moved to Hawaii, Where He Was Stationed
Strait and his wife eloped in Mexico on December 4, 1971. A few weeks later, the two exchanged vows at a church in Pearsall, Texas. During that same year, Strait enlisted in the United States Army and was stationed at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, according to Country Fancast.
There, Strait began performing with a U.S. Army-sponsored band, “Rambling Country,” before he eventually left the band and was signed in MCA Records in 1981, which kick-started his career.
3. He Lost His Daughter Jenifer in 1986 After She Was Involved in a Fatal Car Accident
After moving to Hawaii, Strait and Norma started a family with the arrival of their daughter, Jenifer Lynn Strait, on Oct. 6, 1972. He released his first single, “Unwound,” in 1981, the same year he and Norma welcomed their second child, George “Bubba” Strait Jr., according to Taste of Country.
Unfortunately, as Strait’s career was taking off, their family was struck by tragedy in 1986 when Jenifer was killed in a car accident. According to Taste of Country, she was ejected from the car and killed immediately. She was just 13-years-old.
Strait doesn’t often talk about the incident, but his 2005 song “You’ll Be There” makes him think of his daughter, according to an interview Strait had with USA Today:
That song hit home for me for obvious reasons. I’m a religious person. I honestly believe we will see each other in heaven someday. I wanted to do the song badly.
He also opened up briefly to PEOPLE about his daughter in 2012 as well, saying, “We were blessed to have been able to spend 13 years with our beautiful daughter Jenifer.”
4. The Family Set Up The ‘Jenifer Lynn Strait’ Foundation Following Her Death, Which Donates Money to Children’s Charities in San Antonio, Texas
In remembrance of their daughter, the family set up the Jenifer Lynn Strait Foundation, which donates money to children’s charities in the San Antonio, Texas area, according to Country Fancast.
“The Jenifer Strait Memorial Foundation was founded in 1986 to preserve Jenifer’s memory through charity,” Taste of Country writes. “The 501(c)3 non-profit organization survives through private donations, which it distributes annually to child-related charities primarily in the San Antonio area where the Straits continue to live. Boysville, Greater San Marcos Youth Council, Dare to Love Rainbow Room, Youth Alternatives, and Carver Academy are just a few of the organizations the foundation has supported over the years, according to the foundation’s website.”
Bubba graduated from Texas A&M in College Station and pursued a career as a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) team roping competitor, according to Country Fancast.
5. The Strait Family Are Big On Holidays
George Strait has been nominated at the CMAs a ton of times and he has taken home awards 17 times in his career. For the Golden Anniversary of the CMAs, Strait has come on board to perform at the event. (Getty)
Although their son is grown and has a child of his own now, the Strait family makes sure to spend the holidays together as a family. Strait told USA Today that he loves celebrating Christmas especially, and enjoys hiding presents all over the house and leaving out milk and cookies for Santa because “he’s always hungry.”
The ranch is brush country. It’s desolate-looking. I love it. During the winter break, we’re all together as a family. It’s me and Norma and our son. On Christmas, I get up early, while it’s still dark, and make a big fire. The rest of the family is still asleep. I have presents hidden all over the house, and I’ll bring those out. I’ll get out the cookies and milk. I still like to do that for Santa because he’s always hungry.
Strait is performing alongside many other celebrated country music stars tonight during the 2019 Academy of Country Music Awards. The annual awards show, which holds the honor of being the first country-related awards ever held by a major organization, will air live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday beginning at 8 p.m. ET.