Friends, Family and Fans filled the pews of the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville to say goodbye to their beloved husband, father, brother, son and friend, Troy Gentry, on a rainy September morning.
Troy Gentry, one-half of country duo Montgomery Gentry, was killed on Sept. 8 when the helicopter he was riding in experienced mechanical issues and crashed shortly after take off from the Flying W Airport in Medford, N.J.
Opening remarks by host Storme Warren made note that this was not to be a normal service because Troy Gentry was a unique guy. While the stage was filled with normal displays of beautiful flowers, it was the unique projection of the bat signal on the walls that caught everyone’s eye. Gentry was a huge fan of crime fighter, owning several versions of the bat suit, including the Christian Bale version that sat on the stage next to Gentry’s coffin.
Little Big Town was the first pay tribute as they were asked by Gentry’s wife, Angie, to begin the service with their melodic version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” You could hear a pin-drop as their booming a capella harmonies filled the room.
Gentry’s close friend, Eddie Lunn, his pastor, Dr. Michael Glenn and fellow peers took the stage to remember their friend and share some insight into the man that Troy Gentry was. The theme of the afternoon was God, family and friends—three things that Gentry loved and for whom he wanted to be a better version of himself for.
Rafael Calderon, Gentry’s best friend, stood at the podium to talk about the man he knew. Sharing stories of love, faith and family that made all those in attendance both laugh and cry, as he celebrated Gentry’s life.
“I believe during this difficult time Troy would use these words,” Rafael said. “Do not cry because I am gone. Smile because I lived. And boy did he live. Much like Batman, today Troy is our silent guardian, our watchful protector, our angel in the sky. He will watch over all of us, but he will always be by the side of his beautiful Angie and his sweet daughters (Taylor and Kaylee)”
Several of Gentry’s artist friends took the stage to deliver heartfelt performances for the friend they lost, including Halfway 2 Hazard’s David Tolliver and Chad Warrix, who sang “My Old Kentucky Home,” Trace Adkins who said “Anytime I shared this stage with Troy was a privilege. Today’s no different,” before performing “Wayfaring Stranger and Charlie Daniels, who performed “How Great Thou Art.”
Others attending the service, not to perform, but to pay their respects, included Keith Urban, Josh Turner, Terri Clark, Travis Tritt, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Owen, Michael Ray, Ira Dean, Ray Scott and more.
But it was Vince Gill’s poignant words that had mourners burst into tears. “We’re all here because we feel like family and we are family,” Gill said choking back tears. “We came to be friends through the family of the Opry and that’s a powerful family—the people that grace that stage in all forms. I would encourage Eddie [Montgomery] to lean on this [Opry] family. It’s a good one. Don’t disappear. Come out here and let this family love you. This family has a long history of loss. I just encourage you to stay within this family.”
As guests erupted in applause, Charlie Daniels, Randy Owen and Ricky Skaggs left their seats to surround Eddie Montgomery and embrace him with a group hug. On stage, Gill had to take a moment and compose himself before performing his hit, “Whenever You Come Around”— a favorite of Gentry’s ann the very first song her ever sang to his wife, Angie.
The service concluded with Montgomery Gentry’s new single, “Better Me,” playing over the speakers—a song that sums up Gentry’s life long struggle to get to a place where he could find himself taking risks, being a kid, treating others with respect, loving his family and finding his faith in God—the man he became.
“I’ve turned the page on wilder days / I’m writing all this down, hopin’ you’ll see / I ain’t sayin’ I’m perfect, but I’m workin’ on a better me.”