BRANSON, Mo.– Country music icon Mickey Gilley was honored today, as family and friends gathered at the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theatre in Branson for a celebration of life service held at 1:00 p.m.

The service was broadcast online with thousands of fans viewing the memorial.

Various close friends gave speeches in Gilley’s memory, remembering his impact on each of their lives.

Longtime friend and musician T. G. Sheppard said one thing he’ll remember is how Gilley made time for those he loved.

“He knew how to be a friend,” Sheppard said. “Most people in our business never seem to have time enough to be a friend with the schedules we have to keep. But Mickey always found time for his friends.”

Gilley was one of the first entertainers to call Branson home, opening the Grand Shanghai Theatre over 30 years ago. He was named the Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in 1976, and was inducted into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame in 2002.

Gilley released multiple albums that reached #1 on the Billboard Top Country albums chart, with his biggest single, “Room Full of Roses” reaching as high as #50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Country Songs.

“Didn’t he leave us some great music to enjoy until we see him again?” Sheppard said. “But I know when I’ll see him again, he’ll once again be playing the piano.”

Sheppard was asked to read a letter written to Gilley by his wife Cindy Loeb, in which she described Gilley as “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“You were bigger than life,” Loeb said in the letter. “You left a legacy of music, but more importantly, your kindness and compassion for everyone, including God’s little creatures, is unsurpassed. I’m proud of you for doing what you loved and always showing up even when you and your body said ‘I’m not sure I can keep doing this.'”

Sheppard presented Loeb with 37 roses on behalf of Mickey Gilley, “For 37 years of love that you showed him.”

Recordings of the memorial can be watched on Facebook and YouTube.

More services to honor Gilley’s life are planned for the summer: a public memorial in Pasadena, Texas and a private service in Ferriday, Louisiana. There will also be a public tribute in Nashville, Tennessee this summer.

The family is asking that instead of flowers, fans and those who wish to honor Gilley’s memory make a donation to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary or an animal shelter of their choice.