VIDEO - One of Dollywood's Longest Employees Dies at 94: 'She Loved to Work'

One of Dollywood’s longest serving employees died unexpectedly not long ago, WVLT reported December 20.

Johnnie Crawford began her career at the theme park upon its opening in 1986. She passed away at the age of 94 on December 18, her obituary read.

“I like to tell people I came with Dolly,” Crawford told the outlet during an interview in 2015.

The East Tennessee resident, who started her job with Dollywood at age 58, had a special love for Dolly Parton and according to reports, never missed a day of work.

Dollywood officials said of the special woman:

Ms. Johnnie personified the warm and inviting friendliness for which Dollywood has become so well known. She was a bright light for every guest who visited Dolly’s Chasing Rainbows Museum, and she often said her favorite part of the job was being able to meet so many different people and learn about them.

It was a common sight to see her fellow Dollywood hosts stopping by to say hello and enjoy time with her. In fact, each time Dolly visited the museum, Ms. Johnnie would joke with her that they both started their jobs at Dollywood at the same time—when the park opened in 1986. She certainly will be missed by her Dollywood family.

Remembering Dollywood's Longest Employee

What's the longest you've spent at one job? Dollywood is mourning the loss of an employee who started when the park opened back in 1986. Johnnie Crawford died Saturday at the age of 94.Learn more: https://bit.ly/3FiixAb

Posted by WVLT on Monday, December 20, 2021

Social media user Taylor Raines shared a photo of the beloved employee with Parton, and said Crawford “was my favorite staff member at Dollywood. Hands down”:

It’s been a few days since her passing, but I just saw this photo of Miss Johnnie with Dolly and it made me cry…

Posted by Taylor Raines on Tuesday, December 21, 2021

“I’ve never met a person working there who didn’t go out of their way to make my day better.. but Miss Johnnie had the best stories and the biggest heart of them all. What an incredible life this woman had,” the post continued.

Meanwhile, family members described her as “tough and gentle” after growing up during the Great Depression, noting she knew how to survive even if she did not have much.

“She would wake up at 4:30 every morning and walk her dog Gypsie,” the family recalled. “She loved to work, stayed happy and ate what she wanted, including tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches. She will be missed by so many.”

Amy Furr