PRESTONSBURG — Friends, family, and the extended family that is the Kentucky Opry community gathered Tuesday morning to pay their respects and share stories about Billie Jean Osborne in a very fitting place: at the “house that she built,” the Mountain Arts Center.
At least 150 gathered in the MAC’s massive theater to remember the retired Betsy Layne music teacher. Osborne’s lofty dream, that gifted Eastern Kentuckians would not have to leave home to find success or a world-class venue to display their talents, was realized when the $7.2 million MAC opened in 1996.
Her pastors, both past and present, were in attendance, to share their stories of a woman they knew as a faithful servant to Christ and a dedicated churchgoer for over 70 years. U.S. Representative Hal Rogers spoke fondly of Osborne, whose grit saw the MAC through its rocky path to raising enough money to be completed without compromises. Tourism director Freddie James recounted amusing anecdotes, and alumni from the Kentucky Opry and the Jr. Pros shared their touching memories of the teacher and leader that gave them the confidence to pursue their own dreams.
Osborne’s awards, accolades, and recognitions—numerous and prestigious though they may be—do very little justice to representing the work she did to advance music education in our region and inspire countless local artists.
Osborne was laid to rest at the Davidson Memorial Gardens in Ivel. She was 82.