Bridgestone Arena erupted into four minutes of candle-lit worship as the country queen sang a bone-chilling rendition of the classic Christian hymn “Softly and Tenderly.”
The “In Memoriam” tribute of the show featured singers, songwriters, producers and legends, before closing with the faces of all 59 victims of the Las Vegas attacks in October.
Among those remembered was one half of the country music duo, Montgomery Gentry.
Troy Gentry tragically passed away on Sept. 8 in a helicopter accident, just hours before the duo was set to perform in Medford, New Jersey. Gentry was 50 years old.
“A little piece of my soul got lost there,” Eddie Montgomery says of the day he lost his friend of 30 years. “It was a horrific day; my world changed as much as the band did. It’s something that you never get over. It’s going to be in my mind and my soul for the rest of my life.”
Gone, but Not Forgotten
Troy Gentry was a devoted family man—a husband and father to two girls. When he wasn’t on the road touring, he was a regular attendee of Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield, Mo., where he was known more for his character and faith than for his country hits.
An obituary for the country music legend reveals Troy Gentry was generous with both his time and finances, having donated to causes like the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and the T.J. Martell Foundation. He was an avid supporter of the U.S. military, our troops and the USO. And after his wife, Angie, battled breast cancer, he became an advocate for that as well.
His fame was only a launchpad for the GOOD Gentry wanted to see in the world.
According to his obituary, one of Gentry’s favorite Bible verses was Deuteronomy 31:6, which says: “Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”
In recognition of his generosity, Gentry was awarded the Academy of Country Music’s Humanitarian Award in 2009.
“We never called anyone fans—we called them friends,” Montgomery told PEOPLE. “And me and Troy have been blessed over the years to have a lot of friends.”
As Troy Gentry’s family and friends continue to cope with the sudden loss of a great man gone too soon, there is solace in knowing that he left something behind for all of them.
Days before the helicopter crash, Montgomery Gentry was in the studio putting the final touches on their new album, Here’s to You, which is set to be released on Feb. 2.
“It’s probably the best I’ve heard him sing,” Montgomery says proudly of his old friend.
Gentry’s legacy lives on through the lives of those he touched. At the CMA’s, Montgomery took to the stage with the duo’s hit “My Town,” alongside Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts. The screen behind them flashed photos of Troy Gentry, and the duo through the ages.
In January, Eddie Montgomery hopes to head out on tour and share the songs he and Gentry loved so much.
“He was more than just a singer. He was a brother and he was always there. As far as I’m concerned, we’re still making music together.”