Emotions ran high as family, friends and fans packed the Grand Ole Opry House on Thursday, September 14 to bid their final farewell to Montgomery Gentry’s Troy Gentry, who passed away Sept. 8 in a helicopter accident.
The stage of the Opry House, where Troy lay at rest, was filled with flowers and a guitar, as it often is on these occasions. But for this country star’s service, the iconic Bat Signal was shining on the stage and Troy’s Batman costume was positioned nearby, reflecting the star’s love of the superhero as well as his sense of humor.
Troy’s life and career were spotlighted in video that rolled prior to the service. As radio and television host Storme Warren greeted guests, he offered a thoughtful opening statement. “You are not at a normal memorial service because the man we are remembering today was a truly unique, unique individual,” Storme said. “When was the last time you saw the Bat Signal at the Grand Ole Opry House? That is the man we are remembering: Wake surfing, jet board flying, snow skiing, fun-loving, hard rocking, Batman obsessed, flag-waving, family loving, God-fearing, true blue southern rock country boy from the Wildcat country in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. His name, Troy Lee Gentry.”
Continuing with the theme of the service not being “normal,” instead of a classic hymn — in a nod to Troy’s incredible patriotism — the first musical offering came in the form of the national anthem performed by Little Big Town.
Troy’s home church pastor, Dr. Michael Glenn of Brentwood Baptist Church, spoke at the service, offering comforting words of prayer and support to all of those broken by this tragedy.
Favorite country duo Halfway to Hazard, close friends of Troy and musical partner Eddie Montgomery, also continued the not normal theme with a poignant performance of the mutual Kentuckians’ state song, “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Both Storme and family friends Eddie Lunn and Rafael Calderon shared sweet and often humorous memories of the handsome and talented country star, at times choking on tears and, at others, laughing openly. The recurring theme, though, became less about Batman or even country music and more about the incredible heart of Troy Gentry and his capacity for love. Love for his family, his friends and his fans.
Rafael, though, gave a bigger glimpse into the man behind the microphone. He explained Troy’s multiple tattoos, saying, “The sparrow signifies his love for [wife] Angie. It mates for life and it always comes home. The turtle, a symbol of Hawaii, the place where they were married and favorite place to vacation together. The rose represented the memory of his mother. The cross was a symbol of his Christian faith. And Batman, well, that goes without saying. I’m not saying Troy was Batman. I’m just saying no one has seen Troy and Batman in the same room. Troy loved Batman. He always said, ‘You don’t need superpowers to be a superhero.’”
In addition to David Tolliver and Chad Warrix of Halfway to Hazard, performances came from longtime pals Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels and newcomer Colby Ray Slaughter, each emotionally tipping their hat or addressing Troy directly before leaving the stage. But Vince Gill first spoke directly and poignantly to Eddie about the Opry community he is a part of. “I hope you lean on this family,” Vince said. “It’s a good one. And don’t disappear. Come out here and let this family love you.” As Vince grew more emotional, he said, “This family has a long history of loss … I just encourage you to stay within this family.” The cameras then cut to Eddie as Opry members present reached over to hug and embrace the one left behind.
Vince didn’t sing “Go Rest High On That Mountain,” as he might have done in a “normal” Opry service. Instead, he performed his tender love song, “Whenever You Come Around.” The country star explained, “They asked me to sing this song because it meant something to Troy and Angie. It was the first song Troy sang to Angie.” Vince choked on tears as he shared how important it was that words he had written had such meaning for the couple.
Pastor Glenn may have had the most moving words of the service for all of us who knew and loved Troy Gentry when he prayed to God, “How grateful we are for Troy, that you shared him with us. How reluctantly we give him back to you.”