Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 15, 2013

SALISBURY — Karen Littleton, the co-owner of Nashville Nights in downtown Salisbury, has died.
Littleton, 59, passed away unexpectedly at home early Friday morning, according to friend and business partner Dick Palmore. Littleton and Palmore, along with Littleton’s husband Jeff, opened Nashville Nights at 125 and 127 E. Innes St. in February after two-and-a-half years of development.
Karen and Jeff Littleton’s grandson, Gavin Littleton, nearly died in August 2012 when he dove into shallow water at High Rock Lake and broke his neck. Teenage friends saved his life by pulling him from the bottom of the lake, administering CPR and finding help.
Karen Littleton was one of Gavin’s most enthusiastic cheerleaders throughout his hospitalization and rehabilitation.
She gave an interview to the Post while Gavin remained in critical condition at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, awaiting surgery. Littleton kept her composure throughout most of the interview but broke down when she talked about the helplessness she felt.
“We are asking for prayers,” she said. “If love could heal him, he would be home today.”
Gavin did return home and continues to recover from the accident. But one of his strongest supporters is gone, and the close-knit Littleton family has been dealt another blow.
Palmore said relatives and friends are in shock.
“She’s been like my sister for 40 years,” he said.
While he and Jeff Littleton help run the nightclub, Palmore said, Karen Littleton was the face of the business.
“She’s the one who just lights up the place,” he said.
She booked all the bands and built a great rapport with them, Palmore said. His first phone call Friday morning came from a sorrowful Darrell Harwood, a popular country singer originally from China Grove whose band played the first live show at Nashville Nights. Harwood plans to play the club again Saturday.
Karen and Jeff Littleton were married for 43 years, Palmore said, and had three sons — Todd, Brandon and Jordan. Todd Littleton owns Benchwarmers nightclub in downtown Salisbury.
The Littletons and Palmores — Dick and his late wife Amy — had been close friends since Dick and Jeff returned from Vietnam, Palmore said. The men were drafted two weeks apart.
Palmore closed Nashville Nights on Friday and placed white flowers on the door. He plans to reopen Wednesday but said he doesn’t know who will handle the booking yet.
Visitation for Karen Littleton will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at Summersett Funeral Home. A funeral is planned for 11 a.m. Tuesday in Summersett’s chapel.
Palmore said Gavin and his grandmother were very close, and the teenager has been a “real trooper.”
“I guess when you’ve been through as much as that young man has, you can probably handle about anything,” he said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.