Gary McCurdy is the go-to preacher for Thompson Funeral Home of Piedmont. Owners Jim and Tammy Thompson refer those without a preacher to McCurdy, a minister at the Lebanon Church of Christ at Knighton’s Crossroads on County Road 6, just north of Piedmont.
“He makes every funeral very personal,” Tammy Thompson said. “He takes time with families and always comes in with them for the first viewing.”
McCurdy now speaks at about 20 funerals a year, and often referrals come from people he does not know. He has served well over 400 families in his 28 years of ministry. Many people call him the “funeral man.”
His motivation? It’s not money. McCurdy donates any money that grieving families give him to his church, and the money is used only for benevolent purposes.
“Sometimes we pay for people’s utilities or their transportation to the doctor or for medicine,” McCurdy said.
How he came to be a minister in the first place is also a story. He met his future wife, Vickie Box, at Lebanon Church. Her grandfather, C.E. “Grandpa” Murphy, was the minister and had served there for 65 years. When he died, members asked McCurdy to fill in.
“I have been filling in ever since,” he said.
McCurdy retired from the timber industry at Kimberly Clark Corporation. Afterward, he became a realtor at Pope Realty, where he works now on a part-time basis. However, his “fill-in” job as minister takes up much of his time.
He preaches to a congregation of about 80 members on Sunday mornings and nights, and he teaches class on Wednesday nights.
His funeral ministry sometimes takes him all over the state and into Tennessee and Georgia. He pays his own expenses.
McCurdy’s philosophy about presiding over a funeral is to never preach any adult into heaven or hell. He meets the surviving family members and learns about the deceased’s good traits. He emphasizes those during the funeral service.
As with most preachers and funeral directors, he has also seen the ugly side of human behavior, funerals where law enforcement officers were present to keep the peace, funerals of murder victims, and funerals that made him weep as he drove away — such as when young people die.
Speaking at so many funerals has given him perspective.
“I think everybody needs to live each day as if it is their last,” McCurdy said. “People need to enjoy life and make as many good memories as possible. That way, someone will have something special to say about them.”
Sherry Kughn is a local freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.