Chet Atkins and Leona AtkinsLeona Atkins, widow of famed guitarist and producer Chet Atkins, died Wednesday at age 85, after a lengthy illness. Leona and Chet were married in 1946, celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary before Chet passed away in 2001.

"She and Chet were a team," friend and fellow country star Steve Wariner tells Nashville's Tennessean newspaper. "She'd tell stories about the hours he'd practice, how he'd play and fall asleep with the guitar still in his lap. She'd take it out of his lap and put him to bed."

"She's a big part of what made Chet great," echoes Vince Gill. "They were an inseparable pair: When you saw him, you saw her."

Married to one of the biggest country legends of all time, Leona was also a star in her own right. Before meeting Chet, she sang with her twin sister Lois as the Johnson Twins. Leona was the inspiration behind Meryl Streep's character in the film, 'A Prairie Home Companion,' which tells the story of sisters who sing on a radio show.

In lieu of flowers, the Atkins family is asking that donations be sent to the Chet Atkins Music Education Fund, P.O. Box 44025, Nashville, TN, 37244.