A photo collage by the family of Mary Anne “Marie” Gallant displays her love for country singer Alan Jackson. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

Heading to Nashville last week, Sue Castle felt a little nervous about what might happen when she showed up with her mother’s ashes and a plan to spread them somehow at country star Alan Jackson’s Tennessee home as her mother wished before she died last year at age 80.

It turned out well, though.

Her first morning there, a Maine native who’d become a music producer called her. He’d read a story in the Sun Journal detailing Castle’s hopes for the trip and offered to help.

Then she headed to a four-story bar that Jackson has in Nashville, which doubles as a sort of museum to his career, with the notion of feeling it out about the possibility of showing off a display about her mother Mary Ann “Marie” Gallant’s love for Jackson and his music.

Castle, of Gardiner, said Tuesday that she began chatting with a bartender, angling to get a sense of whether it might be possible for the small exhibit to join all the memorabilia already showcased at the bar.

The bartender squealed in response.


“Oh, my God, are you the one?” she asked with excitement.

She’d read the story, too.

Castle was handed free drinks and the manager quickly emerged to see her.

“They already knew I was going to show up,” Castle said.

Mary Anne “Marie” Gallant of Auburn, with her tattoo of singer Alan Jackson, is photographed in 2014 as she greets friends at Denny’s restaurant in Auburn. Her daughter, Sue Castle, of Gardiner went to Nashville, Tennessee, last week where a display about Gallant will be included at Jackson’s AJ’s Good Time Bar. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo

The manager told her that Jackson had read the news story as well. He said the singer remembered Gallant, with whom he’d danced on stage in Portland and hailed the tattoo of him on her back.

Jackson told the manager that Gallant was “a sweet lady,” the manager told Castle, whose trepidations had been transformed into joy at the reception she was getting.


For the next couple of hours, the manager took her around the bar, showing off every piece on display and telling her the stories behind them.

“It was awesome,” she said.

They handed her T-shirts and other trinkets, she said, and told her she could eat and drink for free at the bar whenever she showed up at AJ’s Good Time Bar on Honky Tonk Highway, just a block from the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Then, Castle looked the manager in the eye.

“You know why I’m here,” she told him.

Castle asked him if he’d be interested in putting the display she’d made, featuring her mother’s favorite car, a 1965 Mustang, with a tiny figure of Gallant behind the wheel, surrounded by pictures of Jackson and the like.


Likely relieved that she didn’t hand him an urn full of ashes, he promised to put it on display. At first, he told her, it could go in an empty spot on the second floor, but he plans to give the piece its own shelf before long.

“It was amazing,” Castle said. “We had a really good time.”

As for the ashes, “we brought ’em back,” Castle said.

She realized that Jackson has a proclivity for moving around so it’s not even clear where they should be spread anyway.

Instead, Castle is going to place them on her property and put a bench nearby, a place to think about her fun-loving mother.

And the trip she took to the heart of country music?


Beyond any expectations, she said, even without dropping her mother’s ashes from a helicopter.

A radio station in Nashville, which also saw the story from Maine, caught up with her while she toured the city and interviewed her about her odyssey.

An aunt in Canada and a cousin in Massachusetts were among the many who heard it over the airwaves.

The story of her mother, Castle said, “went quite viral.”

She said Gallant, who died last year, would have loved it.

Castle did, too. She said all the support and attention “helped my heart big time.”

As Jackson once put it in a song, “The sun seemed brighter than it’s ever been / And now she’s dancing in the wind.”

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