Meet Dolly Parton’s Husband Who Has Been in the Shadow of His Superstar Wife for 57 Years

6 months ago

Dolly Parton is 77 years old, and nearly 60 of those years she has spent with her husband. Her husband has been a lifelong supporter of Dolly, staying in her shadow. However, the couple never became parents. It turns out, Dolly wanted to be a mother, but her career took away too much from her and deprived her of the choice.

Dolly had a difficult childhood and a trauma associated with the death of her brother

Dolly Parton in her youth

Dolly and her 11 siblings had a rough childhood. Each older child had to take care of the younger one, and Larry Parton was her responsibility when she was only 9 years old.

“My mother used to say, ’This one’s gonna be your baby,’” she recollects. “That meant that you got to take extra care of it. You have got to get up with it at night and rock it back and forth.” Larry passed away 4 days after his birth, and it deeply affected Dolly, and she’s never fully come to terms with the pain. But despite this, she felt a strength within herself and a desire to become a mother.

Her house still holds a special place in Parton’s heart. Her mother, Avie Lee, managed to take care of the large family while instilling in them the value of making the most of what they had. Even though her father, Robert Lee, was illiterate, she fondly recalls him as one of the most intelligent people she’s ever met, who worked hard to support his family. Her father even offered a bag of grain to a doctor to deliver Dolly when they couldn’t afford the medical fees.

Dolly Parton met the love of her life right after leaving school

The future country music icon grew up on a small farm in relative poverty, but Dolly knew from a young age that she was destined to conquer the world. When Parton graduated from high school, in her short farewell speech she said that she was off to Nashville to become a star. And all she got in response was roars of laughter from her classmates.

Dolly Parton with her husband Carl Thomas Dean

The coveted move to Nashville was a life-changing experience for 18-year-old Parton. On her first day at the local laundromat, she happened to meet a young man named Carl Thomas Dean. “I was surprised and delighted that while he talked to me, he looked at my face (a rare thing for me.) He seemed to be genuinely interested in finding out who I was and what I was about,” recalls the singer.

Dean fell in love with Dolly at first sight and instantly knew he wanted to marry her. Two years later, the couple tied the knot. Only Dolly’s mother, the pastor, and his wife were present at the modest ceremony.

Once Parton achieved her phenomenal success on stage, Dean decided to stay away from the celebrity side of his wife’s life. And over the years, Carl has never changed his principles.

The two have been married for over 56 years, but Carl Thomas Dean has never been to a public event with Dolly. “My husband is a loner. He doesn’t particularly care about being around anybody but me,” Parton explained when describing her husband’s reclusive lifestyle.

She knew what she would name her future children, but fate had something else in store for her

The couple were sure they were going to have children. They’d even picked out their names. But life took a different course. Dolly’s success came rather quickly, so there was no time to think thoroughly about parenthood. “It’s just not possible for me to bear children and leave them for somebody else to raise while I have a career,” Parton said at the time.

In 1982, Dolly’s health started to decline: sudden pains in the abdomen and bleeding disrupted her tour. Two years later, at 38, Parton underwent a tough surgery, removing part of her uterus. Doctors said Dolly would never be able to have children. This caused the singer to fall into a deep, long depression that lasted 2 years, putting her music career on hold.

Eventually, the singer was able to find a way to cope with life’s difficulties and devoted herself fully to performing. Dolly reflected on motherhood, but concluded that if she had had children, she wouldn’t have been able to achieve such heights in her career: “Everything would have changed. I probably wouldn’t have been a star.”

Luckily, not being able to have children of their own didn’t affected Dolly and Carl’s feelings for each other in any way. According to a close family friend, Parton still loves cooking for her husband and Dean still writes her love poems. “Despite all their ups and downs, they both consider their relationship a match made in heaven!”

«God didn’t mean for me to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine.»

Although Dolly Parton hasn’t had the chance to experience parenthood, she puts a great deal of energy and resources into helping as many children as possible.

In 1995, the star founded Imagination Library, an organization that provides children with books for free. Over the decades, Imagination Library has provided almost 100 million books to children in an effort to instil in them a love of reading.

Dolly Parton with her parents

The country singer founded this organization in honor of her father. “My dad was not able to read and write — he was a country boy with a bunch of kids, and he had to work instead of going to school when he was a little boy, and so he never had the chance to get an education.”

Many women openly share why they choose to remain childfree. For instance, Miley Cyrus, who is considered Dolly Parton’s goddaughter, has also spoken about her decision not to have children.


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