July 24, 1985:
On a warm summer night, fans of country music star Willie Nelson filled the grandstand and a portion of the track at Pocono Downs in Plains Twp.
During a more than two-hour performance, Nelson and his band treated the crowd of 5,000 to such songs as “On the Road Again,” “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow to Be Cowboys,” “Crazy,” “To All the Girls I’ve Ever Loved Before” and “Make a Record If You Don’t Have Nothing to Say.”
Joining Nelson on stage that night were his sister Bobbie on piano, Joey Payne on guitar, Michael Raphael on harmonica, brothers Paul and Billy English on percussion and Grady Martin on bass.
“Words and music are obviously precious commodities to him and, unlike buying a case of beer, when Willie takes possession of a song, his or anyone else’s, he doesn’t rent it, he owns it,” a review of the show in The Scranton Times said.
Following his show, Nelson visited his No. 1 fan in Pennsylvania, Helene Santos Tunney. A guest at Wesley Village Nursing Home in Jenkins Twp., Tunney told the Scranton Times, “I was lying in bed at 11:30 p.m. when Willie stuck his head around the corner of my room and said, ‘Hi.’ He had this big smile on his face and beautiful white carnations.”
The two became friends a few years back when Tunney wrote Nelson a letter after his hospitalization following a collapsed lung. The two continued their friendship through letters and finally met in person in 1982 at the New York State Fair.
Dr. Joseph Lombardo of Pittston, a friend of Tunney’s, offered to give Nelson and friends a ride to Wesley Village so he could visit her.
The pair chatted for about 45 minutes, and he signed autographs and took photos with people.
“It seemed that he really didn’t want to leave,” Tunney said. “He came back to kiss me goodbye three times. You can’t imagine how much that’s worth to me.”
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 14 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast