Fire devastates home of Carter Fold director

The Carter Fold, Hiltons, VAThe Carter Family Fold near Hiltons, VA serves as the official repository of the memorabilia and music of The Carter Family, surely among the most influential traditional string musicians in the history of American folk and country music. Started in 1974 by Janette and Joe Carter to fulfill a promise to their parents (Sara and A.P. Carter), The Fold houses a museum and a small performance center plus the relocated cabin where A.P. was born in 1891.

Rita Forrester had managed The Fold since her mother (Janette Carter) died in 2006, and we have just learned that her home close by was destroyed by fire early Sunday morning (12/6). She escaped unscathed, but her husband Bob did not. In addition to mourning the loss of her husband, this staunch supporter of traditional Appalachian music lost all of her home furnishings, clothing and personal items.

The Bristol Herald-Courier has a story in today’s (12/7) edition.

“Bob, he was a great fellow. Bob was so good to Janette,” said longtime Carter Fold volunteer Faye Collins of Kingsport, Tenn. “He wasn’t as talkative a person as some people. He helped. He volunteered. He’d come down and fix the heaters on Saturday.”

A retired millwright and turbine technician, Bob Forrester cooked cornbread muffins at the Carter Fold kitchen, Forrester said.

“He did a lot of work – a lot of the mowing and grounds-keeping and a lot of the chili,” Rita Forrester said. “He helped me with the cooking – just anything that he needed he could. And, of course, he helped take care of mom and my dad. He spent most every night with my mom from the time she got sick.”

For Rita Forrester, the loss of her husband and home arrives less than three years after the death of her father, James Jett, in 2007.

I’m sure that Rita’s many friends in the bluegrass and old time music world will want to keep her in their prayers.

Well-wishes and expressions of support can be sent to The Carter Fold:

The Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Inc.
A. P. Carter Highway
P. O. Box 111
Hiltons, VA 24258

UPDATE 12/8: A bank fund has been established to allow Rita’s many friends and admirers (not to mention fans of The Carter Family Fold) to make a donation to help her get back on her feet. Surely donations of any size will be most warmly appreciated.

The Rita Janette Forrester Fund
c/o BB&T Bank
110 Gateway Plaza
Gate City, Virginia 24251

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.