Jimmy Buffett’s widow honors musician: ‘He smiled all the time, even when he was deeply ill’

Jimmy Buffett, left, and wife Jane Slagsvol hold hands and smile
Jimmy Buffett’s widow, Jane Slagsvol, penned a heartfelt tribute thanking their family, friends, employees and the “Margaritaville” singer’s global fandom.
(Evan Agostini / Invision/Associated Press)
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Jimmy Buffett’s widow, Jane Slagsvol, honored the late singer-songwriter with a heartfelt tribute acknowledging “a whole word of people” who came into their orbit over the past few years — from their family and employees to Buffett’s faraway fans.

Slagsvol, who wed Buffett in 1977, published her words Saturday on the “Margaritaville” singer’s official website — along with a pair of intimate wedding photographs — and shed light on Buffett’s final years, including a stay in hospice care.

The “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” singer had been diagnosed with Merkel cell skin cancer, which he battled for four years before he died Sept. 1 at 76. A May hospital stay forced Buffett to postpone a concert in South Carolina, and his official obituary noted that the musician “continued to perform during treatment, playing his last show, a surprise appearance in Rhode Island, in early July.”


The biography on Jimmy Buffett’s website has been updated to include the musician’s cause of death and details about his cancer battle.

Sept. 3, 2023

“As Jimmy said a few months ago, ‘Growing old is not for sissies.’ These last few years have been unimaginably challenging for Jimmy and me, and we’re definitely not sissies,” Slagsvol said in the Sept. 9 missive.

“One thing we both knew and experienced, through every difficult moment, was the feeling of being buoyed up by all the people in our lives. Everywhere we went, at arenas, at events, and even in the hospitals, we were surrounded by love. There is a whole world of people I want to thank for the incredible kindness you showed us.”

Slagsvol first recognized “Parrotheads,” fans who had been their “big, boisterous family” for decades, thanking them for “creating the world’s most joyful community.” Indeed, the country-rock star became synonymous with a no-worries, good-vibes-only worldview that resonated through his music and Margaritaville restaurant, cafe and resort empire.

On Sunday, hundreds of fans gathered in Buffett’s hometown of Key West, Fla., to honor the musician by marching through the streets, carrying signs and photos and singing his songs in a Second Line-style parade.

“The smile that Jimmy beamed at you from the stage was sparked by your spirit. I think that’s why he loved performing so much. He was so grateful to the community you built around him. Your sympathy and support inspire and comfort me and my family,” she wrote.

Jimmy Buffett’s death at age 76 brought in tributes from entertainers and politicians alike, speaking to his broad appeal.

Sept. 2, 2023

She also acknowledged the teams of doctors, nurses, hospice workers and caregivers whose “compassion was overwhelming in the best possible way.” (She did not reveal how much time Buffett spent in hospice.)


“Jimmy listened to everything you said and followed your every order. You gave him hope, even at the most hopeless moments,” she wrote. “Thank you for your tenacity in seeking the best solutions at each stage of his illness. You were honest, brave, and empathic; you showed us such dignity and goodness. I could not have asked for a better team of professionals.”

Slagsvol also mentioned those who had worked for her and Buffett, calling them “the best, most honorable, most generous people” and saying that the couple knew how fortunate they were “for all these years.” Slagsvol said that the friends who stood by her and Buffett “expanded the meaning and depth of friendship.”

A storyteller who specialized in tales of beach bums, burnouts and small-time hustlers, Buffett chronicled coastal life with humor and a light touch.

Sept. 2, 2023

“Jimmy and I felt your breathtaking love and compassion throughout our lives and, especially, over these past few years,” she wrote. “Jimmy brightened telling you stories over long dinners as the cicadas sang. He loved occupying his place at the head of the table, looking at the people he cherished. You created a microclimate of affection that surrounded us like the sun. It gave us hope; it felt like a celebration even when things were grim. It’s a balm to me now. Without your friendship, we surely would have fallen. I wish each of you has friends as gracious, generous, and kind.”

Turning the commemoration back to Buffett, Slagsvol fondly remembered the lifestyle tycoon she was married to for 32 years.

“Jimmy was love. Every cell in his body was filled with joy. He smiled all the time, even when he was deeply ill. And his sense of humor never wavered. Jimmy was always the optimist, always twinkling, always making us laugh,” she wrote.

Finally, she thanked her family: “I cannot begin to express what you mean to me and Jimmy. I cherish you, I love you, and I am unfathomably grateful to you every day. You are my heart.


“One of the last songs Jimmy recorded was ‘Bubbles Up.’ He sings, ‘Just know that you are loved, there is light up above, and the joy is always enough. Bubbles up,’” she added. “Jimmy knew he was loved. Right until the end, he looked for the light. Thank you for giving joy to him and to me.”

Parrotheads know: Jimmy Buffett was not just a brand, he was a gifted singer-songwriter with a keen understanding of middle age and the American dream.

Sept. 2, 2023

Buffet and Slagsvol had two daughters, Savannah Jane and Sarah Delaney, and a son, Cameron Marley. He is also survived by his sister, Lucy “LuLu” Buffett, who reflected on Buffett’s final days in a Sept. 5 column for the Keys Citizen. She wrote that her brother, whom she nicknamed “Bubba,” fought cancer “bravely and gave it everything he had” and shared his final words with her before he died.

“He didn’t care about resting in peace. The last words he whispered to me were, ‘Have fun,’” Lucy Buffett wrote, calling it a “beautiful goodbye.”

Buffett’s daughter Delaney also cited his reveler’s spirit and winning grin in a Sept. 7 tribute posted to Instagram. (She similarly thanked the people who impacted their lives in the post.)

“I knew my dad my whole life, but in his final days, I saw who he was: a man whose spirit could not be broken,” she wrote.

“Despite the pain, he smiled everyday. He was kind when he had every excuse not to be. He told us not to be sad or scared, but to keep the party going,” she added. “And as much as I’d like to use that as an excuse to drink myself into an oblivion worthy of his literary heroes, I know it’s not what he meant.


“Yes, he loved his weed and his wine, but the truth is, most of the time, he was just high on life, and that is what he wanted for everyone: to enjoy the fantastic trip that life can be,” she added.

Buffett’s death also was commemorated by several contemporaries, including Paul McCartney and Elton John, as well as Presidents Biden and Clinton.