Michael Ciminella is the first husband of singer Naomi Judd and the father of her daughter Ashley.
Judd died at the age of 76, her daughters, Ashley and Wynonna Judd, confirmed in a joint statement on April 30, 2022.
According to TODAY, Judd died one day before she was supposed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. At the time of her death, Judd was married to her second husband of more than 30 years, Larry Strickland.
People Magazine reported through sources that Judd died by suicide. The medical examiner’s office in Nashville told Heavy, “We are only giving out information to the family at this time.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Wynonna Judd Thought Her Father Was Ciminella for Years; Ashley Described Her Dad as a ‘Feminist’
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Who is the father of Wynonna Judd? Who is the father of Ashley Judd? Different men.
According to Country Fancast, Strickland and Ciminella are not the father of Wynonna. Wynonna’s father is Naomi’s ex-boyfriend Charles Jordan, and Ashley’s father is her first husband, Michael Ciminella.
According to Pitchfork, Judd married Michael Ciminella “when she turned 17” and was still named Diana Ellen Judd.
Fox News reported that Wynonna Judd, who was born Christina Claire Ciminella, “thought for years that her father was Michael Ciminella, the biological father of her sister, actress Ashley Judd, whose birth name is Ashley Tyler Ciminella.”
However, in the early 1990s, she learned that her real father was Jordan.
“I had a choice. I had to decide whether I was better or bitter,” Wynonna told Taste of Country, “and in music that’s what we do. We talk about the hard stuff and we talk about the, ’I don’t want to be here anymore. My heart is broken.’ That’s what country music is: stories about real life. I want want to breathe life into the fans. I want to breathe life into people, by singing from my toenails, that aching part of life and that joy part of life. And it’s intertwined.”
In 2017, Ashley Described her dad on Instagram as a “feminist,” writing,
I am so proud to have joined the intrepid @nickkristof for a Facebook Live conversation at the @nytimes and to have been joined by my dad (who just happens to be a feminist, too).
2. Naomi & Ciminella Were Married for Eight Years
According to Fox, Naomi and Ciminella were married from 1964 to 1972, when they got divorced. She married Strickland in 1989.
An obituary for Ashley Judd’s grandfather, also named Michael Ciminella, described him as a retired businessman who died in Kentucky.
He founded Ashland Aluminum Co., in Ashland Kentucky, according to a 1997 Associated press article.
The story said he was survived by Michael C. Ciminella, then of Louisville.
The article says that the younger Michael Ciminella revealed in a 1995 interview that he was not the biological father of Wynonna.
3. Ashley Judd Described How Her ‘Beloved Dad’ Helped Her When She Was Injured in the Congo
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Ashley wrote about her dad helping her when she was injured in the Congo. She wrote on Instagram:
I want to give my deepest and most vulnerable thanks to Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, for making split second decisions upon my arrival. I arrived to them from DRC in terrible shape and my leg had no pulse. I desperately needed a blood transfusion. Their sisters (nurses) are exemplary, technically top notch, and they cared for the trauma in my body as well as my soul with equal proficiency. Pictured here, once I was stable, is carefree laughter and mirth. Dr Greef, pictured, was super at stabilizing my leg with the external fixator until the massive soft tissue damage and swelling went down so that I could have the Big Operation. What he did was significant and I am forever in his debt. It must be noted I was being cared for during the Covid B.1.351 strain that is plaguing RSA. Sunninghill is world class and a wonder. Thank you to my trauma surgeon, anesthesiologist, head of nursing, hospital management – everyone.
My beloved Dad, who had gotten the text no parent ever wants: “emergency, can’t answer questions, please come now,” had indeed, because he is vaccinated, been able to come to South Africa. He has been my rock, companion, resource, helped me listen to so many doctors, critical support system, and kind, loving presence as I have wept and wept. We then made the 22 hour – 4 flights – to America thanks to unbelievably efficient disaster travel insurance on an Air Ambulance.
In an American hospital, I had to continue to wait for the tissue damage and swelling to reduce. Eventually I was qualified to have the 8-hour surgery to repair the bones, decompress the hemorrhaging nerve and pick the shards of bones out of the nerve. I am now recovering from surgery.
I’m very thankful to all of the experts, including that expert pictured, my Pop, who is rubbing my foot to remind my foot while it still cannot move that it is connected to my body. I am up and around already. Thank you for your care and kind words. Let us always remember those without insurance. Let us remember those who do not have choices. Let us remember those who are lonely and afraid.
4. The Judds Said They Lost Their Mother ‘to the Disease of Mental Illness’
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Naomi’s daughters described themselves as “shattered.”
“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the statement said. “We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.” According to the Associated Press, “The statement did not elaborate further.”
According to Daily Variety, Judd’s publicist released a statement saying that Strickland, her husband of 32 years, “will not be making any further statements. Naomi Judd’s family request privacy during this heartbreaking time. No additional information will be released at this time.”
Journalist Micah Kennedy wrote in a story posted on the website of News Channel 5, a television station in Nashville, that Judd “has died after taking her own life.” However, the family has not confirmed that, he did not cite a source, and his story was later updated to remove that statement.
Naomi Judd lived in Franklin, Tennessee. Heavy is trying to contact Williamson County’s medical examiner. The on-call investigator with the county coroner’s office for Nashville, Tennessee, said she could not comment when asked if the office is handling Judd’s death. She said the office, which was closed, would need to be contacted on the next business day.
5. After Divorcing Ciminella, Judd Married Strickland, Who Is a Gospel Singer
According to his website, Strickland was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, the son “of a preacher who loved Gospel Music.”
He attended his first gospel concert at age 12, and “he started singing with gospel quartets traveling all over the state of North Carolina until he was forced to join the military in 1966,” the bio says.
“After spending four years serving in the US Army with the National Security Agency in Frankfurt, Germany, he continued singing with gospel quartets in and around North Carolina.”
Judd once said they had a lot in common, according to Closer Weekly, which quoted her as saying, “We come from common background. Larry and I are both from a family of six, very blue collar. He worked in the tobacco fields every summer. My daddy had his own gas station and taught me the hard work ethic. Larry is the most humble person I’ve ever met.”
She told Closer of their 25th wedding anniversary: “We might go to Red Lobster. I’m tired of Cracker Barrel. We are so normal. Right now, he’s out on a Bush Hog [mower] on the farm and the big excitement is he found a rattler last week. That’s how we live.”
According to The Associated Press, Judd’s husband Larry Strickland is a singer “who was a backup singer for Elvis Presley.”
Strickland’s website bio says,
It wasn’t long before his voice was noticed by the legendary JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. In 1974, Larry was asked to join the group and overnight, he went from singing in regional quartets in the south to touring and recording with Elvis Presley.
According to The Boot, Judd and Strickland “wed at Christ Church in Nashville in 1989, with both of Judd’s daughters, Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd, serving as bridesmaids.”
Strickland spoke about his wife’s depression in an interview with “Good Morning America.” In that interview, he discussed family members of people with depression, saying, “Get ready to walk that path with them, because they’re gonna need, they’re gonna need you every minute.”
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