To say that Norma Strait is the other half of “The King of Country” George Strait would absolutely be an understatement. Through the years, George and Norma Strait have built a strong and quiet relationship. The duo has navigated the worst times and successfully kept peace and harmony in their family. No wonder the music industry looked up to them as role models for a solid marriage.
But did you know that George and Norma’s path to forever was not perfectly straight? Life was not even always roses for the Straits.
Norma Strait, George Strait’s First Love
George Strait’s wife Norma Strait was born in 1954 and grew up in Pearsall, Texas, in Frio Country, southwest of San Antonio, and attended the same high school with George. They could have easily become high school sweethearts; unfortunately, for several reasons, the two drifted apart.
George took Norma on a first date, however, he did not ask her out again for a very long time. Luckily, the country music legend realized he is making a big mistake and Norma opened up her heart in welcoming George back into her life.
“Norma was the first girl I ever loved. We knew each other forever, growing up in a small town,” George told 100.3 The Bull, a Houston-area radio station. “I never really even thought anything about her, but then one day I asked her out and we went on a date. We didn’t see each other for a long time after that. Then one day, I thought, ‘I’m missing the boat here,’ and we started dating again.”
The two did not wait long to begin their lives together, George and Norma eloped in Mexico on December 4, 1971; they were just 19 then. To satisfy their parents and in order not to throw tradition to the wind, the small-town high school sweethearts had a formal ceremony in a church in Pearsall a couple of weeks later.
Around the same year, George was enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman and spent the final two years in Schofield Barracks Hawaii. But little did he know that it will be the start of his career. While there, he refined his guitar and vocal technique and began playing country music with an Army-sponsored band called Rambling Country. By the time he left, he was already a seasoned stage player.
Norma Strait followed her husband around through his military years, and during the time afterward, when he was back in college at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) where he joined the country band, Stoney Ridge, after seeing a flyer the band posted around campus looking for a new vocalist. Soon enough, he became the lead and even renamed the band, The Ace in the Hole Band.
In 1981, MCA Records signed George Strait to a one-song contract; they gave him the condition that if the song will be a success, the company would offer him a longer-term agreement. Lo and behold, George’s first single, “Unwound” (1981), reached number six on Billboard Magazine’s Hot Country Songs chart. This landed him an extended contract with MCA, and ultimately launched his career as a professional musician.
Norma Strait stuck by his side through it all. However, the Straits have kept their relationship mostly out of the public eye throughout George’s high-profile music career.
Norma and George’s Love Blooms
In 1972, when George and Norma Strait was still in Hawaii, they welcomed their first child, Jenifer Lynn Strait. And almost 10 years after, their son George “Bubba” Strait, Jr. was born.
While George and Norma Strait navigated through life with several bumps here and there, they were struck with the biggest tragedy of their lives in 1986. George and Norma Strait’s 13-year-old daughter, Jennifer, was killed in a car accident after a teenage driver who was driving lost control and crashed near their home in San Marcos, Texas.
The incident caused George to greatly limit his contact with the media. He stopped doing interviews for many years after the accident, as his family and he did not wish to discuss Jenifer’s death. Though in 1986, the family set up the “The Jenifer Strait Memorial Foundation”, a charity to preserve Jennifer’s memory. It donates money to children’s charities mostly in the San Antonio area.
According to the foundation’s website, per a mutual friend of George Strait, and confirmed by the Official Police Report these are the facts:
“Shortly before midnight on June 25, 1986, in San Marcos, Texas a tragedy happened which would forever change the lives of the Strait family.
Jenifer Strait was riding with three friends when the driver lost control of his Ford Mustang as he attempted to take a turn too fast. The car rolled over, just before midnight, not far from the Strait home. Jenifer’s window was open, and she did not have a seat belt on. The thirteen-year-old daughter of Norma and George Strait lost her life that night; the only fatality of the one-car non-alcohol related accident.
George was not on tour at the time, he was home, and was at the scene shortly after being notified.”
There was also a message from George: “Jenifer had so many special friends. So many that Norma and I couldn’t keep up with them a lot of the time. But we never met one of them we didn’t like. They were special to her; they were special to us. Her very special love of all though was her brother Bubba. To watch them together, and the way she watched over him made us know he was always safe with her, no matter what. He loved her back in the same way, and always will, just as we always will. She was like a second mother to Bubba in a way. They had their arguments like a brother, and sister do but in the end, she always made Bubba feel like he came out on top.”
“Her cousins Shane, Wade, Kara, Trey, and Walker were also special to her. There was always closeness between them that I don’t ever remember having when I was young. They all love each other very much.”
“We will all miss Jenifer very much, and we will never forget her, her smile, and laugh.” George wrote on the foundation’s website.
Even now, George and Norma Strait won’t discuss the accident. The memories are too painful. Still, George says, no list of his many blessings could be complete without her. “We were blessed to have been able to spend 13 years with our beautiful daughter Jenifer,” George said.
George Strait’s 2005 song “You’ll Be There” makes him think of his daughter. “That song hit home for me for obvious reasons. I’m a religious person. I honestly believe we will see each other in heaven someday. I wanted to do the song badly. The writer, Cory Mayo, held that song out because he knew I wanted to do it, and he waited until I had the chance. It was kind of him to do that.” George shared in an interview he had with USA Today.
Bubba, on the other hand, graduated from Texas A&M in College Station and pursued a career as a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) team roping competitor. Team roping is actually a passion shared by Bubba and his father. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world to watch my son win a roping, or even to just watch him compete”, George said in a 2004 interview with The Team Roping Journal. He also added, “Bubba and I have been fortunate to win a couple of buckles together, and that, my friends, is the ultimate.”
But what’s even interesting is that team roping isn’t the only passion the father-and-son share. Bubba has also shown talent as a songwriter. In 2009, Bubba co-wrote three songs in George’s 38th album, Twang and solo wrote “Arkansas Dave” for the album. In 2019, Bubba has again written another song for his father, together with longtime collaborator Dean Dillon, ‘The Weight of the Badge’. The song celebrates the hard-working devotion of the police in a lyric that describes an officer’s devotion to duty as he follows his father into the calling.
In a 2009 interview with Cowboys and Indians, Bubba shared how he feels about writing songs with his dad, “It’s awesome! We like all the same stuff, so we seem to agree on music too, for the most part.” He also shared what inspired him to write about Arkansas Dave, he states, “I love stories about outlaws and gunslingers, and I always thought it would be cool to write an outlaw song.”
Bubba is now married to Tamara for nine years. She is a successful realtor who is dedicated to organizations such as the Methodist Hospital’s Children’s Center, Wish For Our Heroes, and David Feherty’s Troops First Foundation.
The Straits Today
Norma Strait was a stay at home mom until Bubba started college at Texas A&M University, but after that, she joined George on the road until he retired from touring. “We do almost everything together,” George said.
“It will be 41 years this December. Norma and I are so blessed that we found each other 41 years ago and were able to do all of this together, experience this life together, to support each other through everything, good times and bad. We do almost everything together. She stayed home until Bubba got out of high school and went to college, but since then she’s come on the road with me too. We love each other and we still like each other. A lot!” he added in his 2012 interview with People.
A few months ago, George Strait and Norma Strait celebrated 48 years of marriage. Their nearly 50-year marriage is something the duo never takes for granted. These days, they are embracing their new role as grandparents. In 2012, Bubba and his wife, Tamara, gave birth to George Strait III, who they fondly call “Harvey,”
“This year my biggest blessing has been my new grandson, our first grandchild. He’s a third, George Harvey Strait III; we call him Harvey. Bubba and Tamara live down the street, so we spend a lot of time with him. We’re lucky they found each other and chose to live close by so we can see Harvey as much as we want. He’s so special, you just have no idea until it happens. We’re all excited about Baby’s First Christmas!” George shared with People in a 2012 interview.
And take note, the Strait family makes sure to spend the holidays together as a family and they full throttle. “The ranch is brush country. It’s a desolate-looking. I love it. During the winter break, we’re all together as a family. It’s me and Norma and our son. At Christmas, I get up early, while it’s still dark, and make a big fire. The rest of the family is still asleep. I have presents hidden all over the house, and I’ll bring those out. I’ll get out the cookies and milk. I still like to do that for Santa because he’s always hungry,” George said in his interview with USA Today.
In 2016, George and Norma welcomed their granddaughter, Jilliann Louise Strait. And just last year, the county music pillar sang a memorable duet of his newest single, “God and Country Music with grandson, Harvey.
George also released a new song titled Codigo. Its music video was very special as you will see a rare guest appearance from Norma. The whole video gives out an upbeat vibe as it takes its viewer down to Mexico, where George’s Codigo brand of tequila is made. Norma can be briefly seen sitting at a scenic outdoor bar, laughing and raising a glass with friends as the cheerful song plays in the background.
At the end of the video, she makes another brief appearance, dancing with her husband together with many other happy couples as the sunsets. Though Norma’s appearance was just quick, it has perfectly showcased the country’s greatest love story.
And when George was asked their secret their relationship’s longevity, he said: “We love each other, and we still like each other. We’re so blessed that we were able to experience this life together, to support each other through everything, good times and bad.”
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Bless Your Heart!