It was unexpected when the news broke last Sunday that singer/songwriter Hal Ketchum has been forced to retire from performing due to a serious health issue: Alzheimer’s and Dementia. It marks a sad end to a long and interesting career.

Born in Greenwich, New York in 1953, his great-grandfather had emigrated from Cork, Ireland to upstate N.Y. Hal spent the early days of his career in Texas with his Austin-based band The Alibis. He remembered, “We paid our dues and played every beer joint and honky-tonk in a 50-mile radius of Austin, where we cut our first record in a horse barn.” Ketchum also spent some time at the famous Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas in the those early days working on the venue’s wooden fence. He last played there in September.

In 1991, Hal scored the first of his 17 singles on the Billboard country chart, “Small Town Saturday Night.” It peaked at #2 as would later hits like “Past the Point of Rescue” and “Hearts Are Gonna Roll.” Soon after, Ketchum became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Knowing that Hal hadn’t performed in several months and knowing there was speculation as to why floating around the Internet, his wife Andrea posted on the artist’s Facebook page, “Unfortunately, Hal is suffering from Alzheimer’s/Dementia.” She added he had been battling this for some time now, “but because of his love for his fans, he continued performing as long as it was possible.” Andrea announced “now it’s time for Hall to stay home with loved ones.” In a reassuring tone, she continued, “Hal is otherwise healthy and happy, enjoying time with his family and friends” and promised to read Facebook comments to him.

Many comments have since been posted by such established songwriters as Wood Newton, Frank Myers and Pat Alger. Pat, who is a co-writer of “Small Town Saturday Night,” posted, “Hal is a big part of my life. His talent is enormous exceeded only by the size of his heart. His passion for his art and the deep love for his family are his legacy. His interpretation of the songs was always committed and I will always be honored that the first time he co-wrote a song it was with me. You all are always in my thoughts. God bless.”

After having witnessed what this disease did to the late Glen Campbell and seeing what his family and close friends had to go through, it’s with a profound sense of déjà vu to see it afflict another remarkable talent. Thoughts and prayers are with Hal, his family, friends and fans.