Stelen took to Instagram to share a throwback image of himself as a kid with his dad, learning to swim in a pool.
“You are the strongest man I have ever known. A fighter. A true titan of your industry. My guiding star. My coach. My hero,” Stelen began his caption. “An embodiment of the American Spirit. You are a man whose strength, prowess, and talent could only be trumped by his ability to be a father and husband. Your impact is forever stamped on the world and on millions of people, yet not one person knew you the way I did. You were my biggest champion and the guiding light in my darkest times. The best mentor a man could ask for. You held a passion that was greater than mountains and it radiates through every lyric and chord. In the everlasting echo from the legacy of your music, you leave me strength and faith to lean on in the silence that follows. You truly did it your way, from the starting gates to the finish line, and never apologized for it. The only thing I truly ever wanted in life was to make you proud. I promise I will continue to make you proud.”
He concluded, “It’s not goodbye forever; it’s just goodbye for now. I love you cowboy. 🤠”
Terry Wyatt/Getty Images
Stelen’s wife, Haley Covel, also honored her late father-in-law by sharing an image of him walking her down the aisle at the couple’s 2021 wedding.
“I’ll never have the right words to say. Toby was larger than life at home and on stage,” she mused in her caption. “It’s a complete honor to be his daughter-in-law. He took me in as his own and I’ll be forever grateful for that. He touched the lives of so many and I’m blessed to be one of those. Posting an image that means so much to me. He walked me down the aisle in 2021 to marry his son. Thank you for all of the prayers for our family during this time.”
The “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” singer died on Feb. 5 following a lengthy cancer battle. He was 62. His death was announced on his website and social media accounts, stating he passed away “peacefully” while surrounded by family.
“He fought his fight with grace and courage,” the statement read. “Please respect the privacy of his family at this time.”
Toby had a celebrated career in country music with more than 60 of his songs reaching the country charts, including 20 no. 1 hits. He sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and was well known for songs including “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” “Red Solo Cup,” “Who’s Your Daddy?” and “Made in America.”
He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Tricia Lucus, and their three children, Shelley, Krystal, and Stelen.
Toby Keith attends the 33rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards with wife Tricia Covel and son Stelen Covel – Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
“Toby and I got to know each other pretty well early in our career,” McGraw said in a video from his performance at Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. “We spent a lot of time hanging out on the bus, played some shows together, having to guard him in basketball. It wasn’t a lot of fun because he beat the s**t out of you.”
The crowd got a good laugh at that last tidbit.
“But he was a really, really good guy. A great friend and I always respected how he did things his way and didn’t care what anybody thought,” he continued, before delivering an emotional rendition of his 2015 hit, “Live Like You Were Dying.” “So, bear with me if I don’t get through it — you guys can help me out — but I want to dedicate this song to Toby and his family.”