This morning in Nashville, fans, friends and family came together for Troy Gentry's public memorial service at the Grand Ole Opry House.
A full-sized statue of Batman, Gentry's favorite superhero, stood sentry over the coffin, with the bat signal shining on the wall above. Gentry, one half of successful country music duo Montgomery Gentry was killed in a helicopter crash while en route to a show in Medford, N.J. on Friday, Sept. 8. The service began with a video of Gentry water skiing, singing, laughing and enjoying life with family, friends and his partner Eddie Montgomery.
Radio broadcaster Storme Warren opened the service. Warren spoke of Gentry as a fun-loving, big-hearted individual. Gentry had supported our troops by volunteering with the USO, so Little Big Town sang the Star Spangled Banner in recognition of Gentry's fierce patriotism.
Dr. Michael Glenn, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church where Gentry and his family attended, gave an invocation asking God to be with those assembled as they celebrated the life of Troy.
Next, Storme Warren took the stage again and introduced himself as a Troy Gentry fan.
"One man's too late is another man's just in time," he began. His voice breaking at points, Warren discussed his close friendship with Gentry, explaining that they even shared a tattoo. "In 1998, my musical world was rocked when I heard Troy and Eddie come out with 'Hillbilly Shoes'," Warren said.
Warren recounted that he had decades-long friendships he had because of Troy Gentry, and that there were five things he learned from the country singer:
"Never stop taking risks and having fun. It's okay to act like a kid all the time the man loved dressing up like batman. Treat every human being with respect and kindness. Love, protect and adore your family at all costs. Trust in god and know that you don't have to be scared of anything."
After speaking, Warren introduced country duo Halfway To Hazard, who came onstage and sang "My Old Kentucky Home" in honor of Gentry's home state.
The Opry then played "Redeemed" by contemporary Christian band Big Daddy Weave. Wearing a Batman bowtie and handkerchief, family friend Eddie Lunn approached the podium and told the endearing story of how he met Troy Gentry.
"My introduction to Troy Gentry starts off like a bad joke," Lunn quipped. "An orthodontist, a business man, a Baptist preacher and a country music singer walk into a bar. Only the bar was a predominantly ladies bakery and breakfast place called the Puffy Muffin."
Lunn conveyed how he, along with pastor Mike Glenn and Orthodontist Alan West used to meet at the Brentwood eatery once a week for breakfast, and encountered Troy and his wife there.
"'What are you guys doing? Is this a regular thing?' Troy asked. "It wasn't long before the singer was welcomed into the inner circle of friends, who spent their time together in fellowship, working through life's problems together.
"Troy listened to Jesus boil the entire Bible down to one simple statement: Love God, love others," Lunn recalled.
"This gave purpose and meaning to his desire to be a better person," Lund stated. "Troy had the love others part down. He was great at loving others."
Lunn addressed Troy's family each directly, telling them, "Taylor, he loved you very much. Our discussions about different things always focused on how he loved you. Kaylee, you were everything to him. I really struggle for words to express his love for you. You were incredibly special to him."Angie you were his rock, you were where he could be himself. You were his safe place. I cannot think of a greater compliment to pay a wife than to be her husband's safe place."
Trace Adkins came up next, to sing "Wayfaring Stranger" in honor of Gentry.
"Anytime I ever shared this stage with Troy was a privilege, and today's no different," Adkins said. "I'm privileged to be here to pay my respects to a good man."
Adkins was followed by Cody Ray Slaughter, an Elvis impersonator who was close friends with Gentry, who sang "Kentucky Rain."
"I met Troy when I was 22 years old," Slaughter recounted. "I was at an Elvis festival. I don't know what he saw in me but he was just the nicest guy. He said 'You know, you're gonna open for me later,' and I said, Troy, is four hours before you play really opening for you?"
Afterwards, Gentry's close friend Rafael Calderon gave the eulogy.
"I guess you could say Troy and I were an odd couple, a country boy from Lexington, Kentucky, and a soccer player from Costa Rica?" Calderon joked.
Calderon didn't realize he was befriending a famous country musician when he first met Gentry.
"I thought to myself, 'These guys are really good! I bet they make it big someday!' I did not realize they had already made it," he said with a laugh.
"Faithful. Kind. Generous, compassionate and welcoming. A good man. Considerate. Life of the party (even though Angie did not like that sometimes!) Genuine, giving humble, hard-working big hearted," Calderon stated. "There simply aren't enough adjectives to describe Troy."
Calderon discussed Gentry's tattoos and their symbolism, including his Batman tattoo. "He always said, 'You don't need super powers to be a super hero.'" He joked about one of Gentry's favorite charity fundraisers, the T.J. Martell Foundation's Country on the Beach annual event.
"Troy, you finally got out of that sandcastle contest," Calderon joked. "Hey Storme, where are you? Maybe now you can win the volleyball tournament now, maybe."
Calderon told stories of Gentry's elaborate Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations, including one so scary that it had made Calderon's son pee in fright.
He referenced Angie's struggle with breast cancer and how deeply that had affected Gentry. "Come hell or high water, he was going to take care of you," he told her. "Troy's faith and love in God grew stronger every day, and that all started with you, Angie. He always told me that you saved him."
Country music legend Charlie Daniels took the stage next and quoted from the book of Job, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away," before playing the hymn "How Great Thou Art."
Next, Gentry's pastor, Mike Glenn, told the story of learning of Gentry's sudden death. "I wish I could have been there when he got on that helicopter," Glenn lamented. "I'd have done my best to persuade him, but you know him, he would have flashed that smile, and I would have ended up on that helicopter with him. No time is guaranteed, we know that. We just didn't expect the call Friday."
Vince Gill came out to play "Whenever You Come Around" and recollected that it was the first song Gentry sang to his wife when they first started dating. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd when he addressed Eddie Montgomery directly, "I want to encourage Eddie, I hope you'll lean on this family, come out here and let this family love you. I just encourage you to stay within this family."
The service closed by playing "A Better Me," a new song from Montgomery Gentry's upcoming album that was scheduled to come out next year before Gentry's untimely and tragic death.
"I ain't saying I'm perfect," Gentry's voice echoed through the room. "But I'm working on a better me."