Jewell’s spirit died with Charles’ death on Dec. 1, 1970. “He was my best friend,” she said. “I don’t want to live without him.” She died nine months later on Sept. 3, 1971.
After heart problems ended Charles’ aviation career in the ‘60s, he used his years of experience as a police officer to join the guard force at Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant just west of Texarkana.
Nursing didn’t last. Jewell was many a patient’s angel, but whenever one would die, Jewell struggled to move on. At some point after nearly two years of nursing at Texarkana’s Wadley Hospital, she decided she’d had enough and turned again to Country music.
She also wanted to be at home.
Her husband, Charles, who had left the Texarkana Police Department to work as a commercial pilot and aerial applicator, had suffered heart trouble.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration grounded him permanently.
He had to keep a supply of nitroglycerin tablets to take when angina struck. He put his law enforcement experience to work as a guard at Lone Star Ammunition Plant, which manufactured military ammunition in operations on a vast site west of Texarkana.
Jewell’s songwriting at that time is virtually impossible to track without researching publishers’ archives and artists’– a task beyond my limited resources’ reach. We in her family know she remained close to Webb Pierce, Cedarwood and other publishers, the Wilburn Brothers and Shot Jackson, a longtime friend who was among the best steel guitarists in the business and co-founder in Nashville of Sho-Bud, the first manufacturer of pedal steel guitars.
In the 1970 interview with Presley, she said she was still writing and selling songs.
It was her last interview. Within weeks, on Dec. 1, 1970, Charles suffered a fatal heart attack at age 51. Jewell’s spirit died with him. “He was my best friend,” she said as she wept at home that night. “I don’t want to live without him.”
In the weeks that followed, she mustered enough willpower to take a couple of aspiring singers to Nashville where she introduced them to her colleagues. She wrote a few more gospel songs. But nine months after Charles died, Jewell’s youngest son found her dead. She had died alone at home in the wee hours of Sept. 3, 1971. As with Charles, she was only 51 years old.
I am Jewell’s oldest son, and during my last visit with mother before she died, she looked exhausted with dark circles beneath her eyes. She’d lost much of her weight, and she spoke slowly with an edge of dull resignation.
She told me she was going to write a book about life in the world of Country music. “It’s going to be pretty earthy, son,” she said.
Then she spoke of calls she’d received. “Shot called,” she said, referring to Shot Jackson. “He wanted to check on me and wanted me to come to Nashville and work with him.
“And Webb (Pierce) called,” she said, feigning exasperation. “He still wants me to move to Nashville and write fulltime for Cedarwood. He said I’m finally free to come and he’d put me up in an apartment, get me a car, whatever I needed, and I wouldn’t have to pay for a thing. Just write songs.”
My heart soared with hope that mother finally would take what had been Pierce’s standing offer for years.
“Mother!” I said. “You’re going to do it, aren’t you? You’re still so young, and you write great songs.” “No,” she said. “I just don’t have the fire anymore.”
Jewell and Charles rest beside each other in the Hale family plot on the west front and not far from the entrance to Restland Cemetery in Charles’ beloved Boswell, Choctaw County, Oklahoma