As friends sang gospel and country music classics, June Carter Cash was mourned at funeral services yesterday (May 18) in Hendersonville, Tenn., not far from the home she shared with husband Johnny Ca

As friends sang gospel and country music classics, June Carter Cash was mourned at funeral services yesterday (May 18) in Hendersonville, Tenn., not far from the home she shared with husband Johnny Cash during their celebrated careers. The 73-year-old singing partner and co-writer of his hit "Ring of Fire" died on Thursday at Baptist Hospital in Nashville after heart surgery to replace a defective valve.

The funeral at the First Baptist Church was open to the public before a closed service and interment at Hendersonville Memory Gardens outside Nashville.

Johnny Cash, recently hospitalized for pneumonia, was brought down the church's aisle in a wheelchair. Nearly 2,000 people filled the church.

Interspersed with brief sermons from local ministers were songs by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Emmylou Harris, the Oak Ridge Brothers, Sheryl Crow, and Laura Cash. Among the guests were Hank Williams Jr., Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall, and Merle Kilgore.

A pale blue casket was covered with pink and red roses and two huge photos of the late singer, a member of the pioneering Carter Family vocal group, were hung high on the altar as thousands of floral arrangements formed a backdrop.

The most touching tribute came from stepdaughter Rosanne Cash, who said tearfully, "Her great passion and mission was lifting up my dad." Cash played the leading role in helping her husband overcome severe drug addiction in his early career, performed with him and was an actress appearing in TV movies.

"She was his dearest companion, musical partner, soulmate and best friend," said Rosanne Cash.

Another tribute was a message from P.J. Patterson, prime minister of Jamaica, where the Cashes had another home and vacationed often. He expressed thanks for the couple's charity work there for children.

Cash was the daughter of the late Mother Maybelle Carter who began recording country songs in 1927 along with her three offspring. In the mid-1950s Cash attended acting school in New York before settling on a country music career. She and Johnny Cash were married in 1968.

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