View the original article at: http://www.countryweekly.com/magazine/vault/dierks-bentley-friends-lifetime
Dierks fans—Thanks for the positive comments and tweets you posted in response to the Stars Up Close story about Larissa Branham and the Dierks Bentley fan community, which we ran in our Oct. 10 (2011) issue . Also, a tip of the CW chapeau to DB Congress Chair Ronna Clark for the blog entry letting people know the story had been published. We know many of you bought the Oct. 10 issue, and we appreciate your support, as always. In order to give Larissa's story a permanent place to reside, we're posting it here on this page, which is dedicated to Larissa's memory. Feel free to post your comments and memories here.
We've made some additional Dierks Bentley content available here as well. Hope you enjoy it.
—Your fellow Dierks fans at Country Weekly
Larissa Branham loved the music of Dierks Bentley. But it was her fellow Dierks fans who helped transform that initial affection into a fully personal experience. Larissa’s life—before it ended far too soon in a fatal accident earlier this year—was profoundly enriched by the chain of friendships extending from the Dierks connection.
From her Glasgow, Ky., home, Larissa had interacted with fellow fans via Dierks’ website. It was there that she got to know Alabama-based fan Ann Tate, who found Larissa to be “a very sweet young girl who loved Dierks’ music like I did.” After Ann suggested that some of the club members meet in Nashville for a visit prior to Dierks’ annual fan party, she became aware that Larissa’s mobility depended on a wheelchair, a fact that stood in the way of attending the event. So, she offered to help. “I wanted Larissa to experience Dierks’ fan club party and meet the people she was chatting with online,” says Ann, “and, of course, meet Dierks Bentley.” Larissa’s parents were reluctant to let a stranger transport their daughter, but Ann—a middle-aged mother and grandmother—assured them that Larissa would be in experienced hands. It worked.
“Larissa made many friends that night from the fan club and met her idol, Dierks,” explains Ann. “After that night she went to as many of Dierks’ concerts in her area as she could.” Larissa’s mom and dad, Cheryl and Jackie Branham, got involved, taking Larissa to area shows.
“Some of our best memories are of taking her to his concerts,” says Cheryl, who shared recollections of Opry trips and, on two different occasions, helping Larissa deliver baby gifts to concert sites for Dierks’ expanding family. “I would do this a thousand times over,” says Cheryl, “if she could just be here with us.”
“It was always a joy to talk to Larissa,” writes David Mattingly, who, as Larissa was, is a Kentucky representative in the DB Congress, a group that helps promote Dierks. David remembers coming home one day and being pleased to find an e-mail sent from her address—but he soon discovered it was from her mother, informing him of Larissa’s untimely passing and asking him to let others know. The DB Congress members quickly rallied to show their support with a large floral arrangement for Larissa’s service; New York DB Congress rep Molly Vasey helped collect and send donations from fellow Congress members—in the amount of $100 each—to two of Larissa’s favored charities in her memory.
“It was like I had lost my best friend,” says Ann Tate about the day she received the saddening news. “Losing a fellow fan is like losing a member of the family—the Dierks Bentley fan club family.”
“God bless you, Dierks, and his fan club for remembering her,” says Cheryl Branham. “I know she is in heaven singing all those Dierks songs and able to dance around without her wheelchair.”
Thanks to DB Congress Chair Ronna Clark and Kentucky rep Lee Ann Miller for providing input and assistance.