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'I knew my heart would break when he passed' | Dolly Parton posts eulogy after death of Billy Earl Owens

Dolly said that Owens stood beside her throughout her career — writing music, strumming his guitar and helping her dreams come true.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Throughout most of Dolly Parton's career, one man was at her side — Billy Earl Owens. On Wednesday, she announced that he passed away at 85 years old.

"I bet a lot of our own relatives don't even know all of the great things that Uncle Bill did behind the scenes through his life," Dolly said in a post on her Facebook page. "But the greatest thing he ever did for me was to help me see my dreams come true and for that, I will be forever grateful."

Dolly said Owens helped her get her first job on the Cas Walker Show, and traveled with her to Nashville through the years. He helped her get signed up to labels and publishing companies, she said. Beyond helping her career, Parton also said he was a man who simply loved music.

She said he wrote more than 800 songs, and several of them were written together with Dolly. They won an award for "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" in 1966, according to a Facebook post from Dolly. She said he would play on stage with her during her early years and traveled with other big artists.

"He was funny, friendly and generous," Dolly said. "He always had a kind word for everybody and gave good advice to young people starting in the business." 

Beyond his musical career, Owens also worked at Dollywood. He helped return the endangered chestnut tree to the area around the Great Smoky Mountains, Dolly said. She called it his passion.

Dolly said he championed protecting the natural environment at Dollywood in 1986, helping plant 70,000 trees in the park along with his wife — Sandy.

"I'm sure that Uncle Bill's friends, fans, his wife Sandy, his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will join me when I say that we will always love you," Dolly said. "Rest in peace, Uncle Bill."