FISHERSVILLE — The snow fell outside while the sounds of Christmas and country music filled the main lobby of Augusta Health.
Christmas came Wednesday morning for the patients at Augusta Health with an hour of songs performed by Jimmy Fortune and his band.
“It’s kind of my way of giving back to people who gave so much to me and my family,” said Fortune of performing every Christmas for the last 14 years at the hospital in Fishersville.
Fortune, who was born in Williamsburg and raised in Nelson County, performed with the Statler Brothers from 1982 to 2004.
“It was pretty cool. It was like getting an education in music and just performing,” Fortune, 63, said.
After the famed group retired, Fortune began performing solo.
He said he lives in Nashville, but enjoys returning to the Valley, where he still has family, including several of his seven children. Many of his family members have been patients at Augusta Health.
In 1982, Fortune said he was working a day job in Charlottesville, and had performed small gigs throughout the Valley when the Statler Brothers’ tenor Lew DeWitt picked Fortune to join the group as his replacement. DeWitt was suffering from Crohn’s Disease.
Fortune wrote the group’s hits “Elizabeth” and “My Only Love,” which he and his band performed Wednesday for Augusta Health’s patients, as well as the Statler Brothers’ final Top Ten hit, “More Than a Name on a Wall.”
He said that performing at Augusta Health is one of his favorite places to perform for his fans. Some of the patients who saw him sing may not get to go home for Christmas and his performance is the closest they may get to Christmas home.
“This is just kind of a motivational thing for them,” said Shelley Payne, head of recreation therapy at Augusta Health.
She said a lot of her patients have had life-changing health events that brought them to the hospital. “It means a lot” to see the patients who have cognitive issues sing along with Fortune and his band, although maybe that morning they were not able to tell her what they had for breakfast.
“To see that person who’s still inside there that a lot of the time we don’t necessarily get to see,” Payne said.
Edmund and Sandy Hevener of Blue Grass, Va. in Highland County saw Fortune and his band Wednesday morning. They were at Augusta Health because Sandy suffered a stroke on Thanksgiving Day, and is undergoing rehabilitation.
“We’re just trying to get her back on her feet,” said Edmund Hevener.
Hevener said that seeing Fortune perform was “great.”
“He certainly hasn’t lost his voice,” Edmund Hevener said.
He grew up just south of Waynesboro, and said he saw the Statler Brothers perform at his church Oak Hill United Methodist many years ago.
“We just appreciated [Fortune] being here,” said Sandy Hevener. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
Fortune said he and his band were in Woodstock Tuesday night, and would perform in Weyers Cave Wednesday night after visiting Augusta Health.
Before performing Wednesday morning, Fortune said that the patients at Augusta Health give more to him with the smiles on their faces than he gives to them through his singing.
“You realize they’re really getting the message of Christmas,” he said.
The message of Christmas is about Jesus.
“I just want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas,” Fortune said.