George Strait is one lucky man. He’s built one of the biggest careers in the history of country music, but one of the most important things Strait has devoted himself to is his 51-year marriage to his wife, Norma.
Strait and Norma attended high school together in Pearsall, Texas, southwest of San Antonio, and in talking to country radio station the Bull 100.3, Strait called his wife “the first girl I ever loved.” But even at that, their path to forever was not perfectly straight.
“We knew each other forever, growing up in a small town. 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,” Strait admitted. “Then one day, I thought, ‘I’m missing the boat here,’ and we started dating again.”
The couple eloped in Mexico on Dec. 4, 1971, and they also had a church wedding in Pearsall, according to Country Living. Strait then enlisted in the U.S. Army, shipping off to serve at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where his new wife joined him. They started a family with the arrival of their daughter, Jenifer, on Oct. 6, 1972.
Strait also launched his country music career while stationed in Hawaii, performing with an Army-sponsored country group called Rambling Country. He released his first single, “Unwound,” in 1981, the same year he and Norma welcomed their second child, George “Bubba” Strait Jr.
Strait climbed in his career over the next few years, earning his first No. 1 hit in 1982 with “Fool Hearted Memory.” That began a run of success that included more No. 1 hits with “A Fire I Can’t Put Out,” “You Look So Good in Love,” “Right or Wrong” and “Let’s Fall to Pieces Together,” but the Straits’ idyllic family life was struck by tragedy on June 25, 1986, when their daughter Jenifer was killed in a car accident in San Marcos, Texas, at the age of 13.
Strait has never publicly addressed how the accident impacted his family, and he has rarely given interviews in the years since then, but he did open up briefly to People magazine about his daughter in 2012, saying, “We were blessed to have been able to spend 13 years with our beautiful daughter Jenifer.”
The Jenifer Strait Memorial Foundation was founded in 1986 to preserve Jenifer’s memory through charity. The 501(c)3 non-profit organization survives through private donations, which it distributes annually to child-related charities primarily in the San Antonio area where the Straits continue to live. Boysville, Greater San Marcos Youth Council, Dare to Love Rainbow Room, Youth Alternatives, and Carver Academy are just a few of the organizations the foundation has supported over the years, according to the foundation’s website.
Norma Strait served as a stay-at-home mother to Bubba until he went off to college, after which she joined her husband on the road until he completed his farewell Cowboy Rides Away Tour in 2014. The couple became grandparents when Bubba and his wife, Tamara, welcomed George Strait III on Feb. 2, 2012. The family calls Strait’s grandson by his middle name, Harvey. Their granddaughter, Jilliann Louise Strait, followed on Sept. 10, 2016.
Though Strait has mostly remained very private about his family over the years, he opened up about his long, fairytale marriage to People, saying, “Norma and I are so blessed that we found each other … 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 … We love each other and we still like each other. A lot!”