A gospel singer born in the Ottawa Valley will be honoured with a lifetime achievement award at this year's Grammy Awards.
George Beverly Shea, 102, was born in Winchester, Ont., about 50 km southeast of Ottawa and spent his early singing days at churches in the area, where his father was a Methodist preacher.
Known as "America's Beloved Gospel Singer," Shea will collect his award in Los Angeles on Feb. 12 — one day before the televised awards show.
"Julie Andrews is in the category, and Dolly Parton, and the Julliard String Quartet. It makes me think of the farmer that wants to put a mule in the Kentucky Derby, and they said why? And he said 'because look at the company it's with' … look at the company I'm with," Shea said, laughing.
"It's been a real privilege, it really has," he said of his Grammy experiences.
Shea has recorded around 70 albums, and has been nominated for 10 Grammies along the way, winning the gospel category in 1966 for his album Southland Favourites.
It's widely believed Shea has sung to the most people of any performer, thanks to his performances at Rev. Billy Graham's Worldwide Crusade events, which drew hundreds of thousands several times a year.
Shea now lives in North Carolina, but travels often to his cottage in the Ottawa Valley.
Community proud of Shea's latest honour
Thurland Brown, pastor of the church where Shea grew up, said the community is thrilled with the news.
"I think it's amazing," Brown said. "I mentioned it in the sermon not long ago that you can live in Winchester and still touch the world around you, touch the entire world."
Shea's friends in Winchester said while the world knows his booming baritone voice, he still has time for them.
"He's just the kindest, gentlest person you'd ever meet," Roy Fawcett said.
"To spend an hour with George Beverly Shea would be an important part of every man's life."
And when he's around, Fawcett said, Shea often drops by the church for a song.