Bakersfield has said goodbye to Merle Haggard at a public memorial service for the country icon.

Haggard’s sister, Lillian, put together the tribute at Valley Baptist Church to showcase her brother’s spiritual side and love of gospel music, and two pastors eulogized the man behind the famous songs.

The ceremony for hundreds of family and friends included video tributes and readings. A guitar made from pieces of his childhood home stood prominently on the stage. It closed with a performance of the last song Haggard ever wrote, a gospel tune called “Let The World Know That We Love Jesus”.

Many people leaving the service felt it was simple and uncomplicated like the man himself.

Kelli Forsch