The late Lanny Moody, known for using humor to bring people to Christ, makes a child smile during one of his many comedic appearances. (Special Photo)
There are so many funny stories to tell — like the time he and his girlfriend Paula were eating at Cracker Barrel with his family and he was telling everybody how much he loved Paula when someone joked, “Well, why don’t you just get married?”
That’s all the prompting he needed. There were three ordained men sitting at the table with him and as he stood and took Paula by the hand, his father, a preacher, stood up and addressed the restaurant patrons saying, “We want to thank you all for coming to this marriage ceremony today.”
Lanny and Paula Moody said their “I do’s” in Cracker Barrel and went to the courthouse the next day to get a license and make it legal.
One never knew what Lanny Moody might do next. His family said he was the life of the party everywhere he went. Videos on YouTube show just how funny this native Covington son was as he crisscrossed the country with his Christian ministry, Upside Down Comedy, portraying a slew of wacky characters like Mr. Dynamic with pants pulled up high, hair slicked back and fake bad teeth.
The Rev. R. Hudson Moody and his wife Frances Cooper Moody, Lanny Moody’s parents, and many of their family members were at Caldwell and Cowan Funeral Home in Covington comforting some longtime friends who had lost a loved one when they got the news.
Their son David Moody took the call. He told his sister Viki Presley to go get their mother, who was talking to some ladies and follow him. They were all confused and wondering what was going on when they gathered in the kitchen at the funeral home. They kept asking David what was wrong, but he was busy trying to get brother Hudson on the phone just as Hudson walked into the room.
“Mama and Daddy, something has happened,” David told them. “We’re going to have to do what we’ve told people to do all our lives. There’s been an accident and Lanny’s gone.”
As he stepped out of his truck in the emergency lane on Interstate 285, Lanny Moody was struck and killed instantly on a rainy afternoon on Dec. 3. That morning he had logged onto Facebook, where he wrote, “I want to give a big shout out to my son, Dylan Moody. Happy Birthday! I love you.” It was his son’s 17th birthday.
“There we were at the funeral home crying for this other family and we were just totally blown into shock,” Viki Moody Presley said. “…This experience is something we never thought we’d go through, but Mama and Daddy’s faith has been amazing through this. Of course they hurt. We still think we’re going to wake up and find out it didn’t happen.”
Presley tells how a woman who grew up in their church brought a box of tissues with her as she stopped by to visit her father thinking she would comfort him, but said he was a blessing to her with his strong faith as he said, “God is so good. He gave us 54 years.”
Lanny Moody was born in Covington in 1959, and is one of the five children of Frances and R. Hudson Moody.
During a time of grief, this family, whose patriarch has been in the ministry for more than 60 years, is holding onto the Christian faith that has always been its identity. The 86-year-old Rev. R. Hudson Moody founded and led churches across Newton County, including the Baptist Tabernacle, where he was pastor for 40 years. He also helped start numerous churches in the area, including Midway, Canaan, Oxford and other Baptist churches.
Sons David and Lanny also went into the ministry. David Moody has been the pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle for a decade and Lanny, who had recently completed his bachelor’s degree at Andersonville Theological Seminary, had been in ministry since high school when he formed his comedy routines with a gospel message. In addition, he had also served Solid Rock Baptist Church five years as youth and associate pastor.
Moody had recently gone back to work with his previous employer, Heaton Corp.
Presley said her brother gave his life to Christ when he was a teenager and flipped his Dodge Dart over three times, yet was able to walk away from the wreck. He said God got his attention that day and from then on, Lanny Moody’s first passion in life was to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Moody put together a little comedy skit that grew into a full-time ministry that found him in front of audiences across the U.S. as he performed his stand-up routines at churches and Christian festivals. He dressed as crazy characters and had routines for all ages with the goal of bringing people to the Lord.
“Lanny’s field was all over the country,” Presley said. “He had such a passion for young people. You never met anybody as real as Lanny Moody. He was so real, so down to earth. He never met a stranger. He made everybody feel like you were his best friend. He loved everybody.”
It seemed everybody loved him back, as friends waited in line for hours at the funeral home. Presley said she was told an estimated 2,000 people came to Caldwell and Cowan in one night to pay their respects to her brother.
“Lanny’s life was a joy-filled one,” Presley said. “If you ever met him, you had met a friend…He lit up the room with his big smile, his laughter and encouraging words and brought joy to every situation, even the bleakest of circumstances.”
In one of his videos made in front of a crowd at SonFest 2012 in Florida, Moody joked that he got his humor start in church making fun of the singers.
“I’ve got ADD (attention deficit disorder) and I had someone ask me if I took medicine for my ADD,” Moody said to the audience. “I said, ‘No, I enjoy my ADD.’ I don’t want anybody to stop my way of thinking…Which is better than SAR. Everybody’s got a friend who has SAR. You know what that is? That’s Something Ain’t Right.”
Moody loved to make people laugh and he loved his big family that included parents, brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews and in-laws.
Family members said Paula, his wife of 19 years, was the love of his life. When they married, he had two children, she had two and then they had son Dylan, but Presley said Moody never said he had step-children; he called all five of them his children.
Moody’s children and their spouses are Lan and Chelsea Moody, Garrett and Kayleigh Moody, Dylan Moody, Blake IV and Mindy Alexander and Carrie and Cameron Kiplinger.
He was also a grandfather to Landon Moody, Dawson Kiplinger and Grayson Alexander. In addition to his parents, brothers David and Hudson and sister Viki, Moody is also survived by his sister Faith.
“I love to laugh,” he said on stage that day at SonFest on Youtube. “I truly believe if you’ve got Jesus, you’re going to have a merry heart.”
One thing that really made him happy was riding motorcycles. Moody was a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association and 45 club members on motorcycles were there to escort his hearse the day of his funeral. The riders then stood along the walls of the church during the ceremony.
Presley said the outpouring of love and support from people has been a blessing to her family.
“People don’t know what to say to somebody when they lose someone they love until you’ve been there,” she said.
“They mean well, but the only thing that has eased our pain has been the physical, emotional and spiritual embrace from our family, our community and our loved ones and friends. It’s been that embrace, no words, but the embrace that seems to ease the pain for that period of time a little bit.”
They also take comfort in the many lives Moody touched in his ministry.
Facebook has been filled with messages, including one from a man Moody once met on an airplane flight. He sent a message saying he had never met Moody before they sat together and talked on that three-hour flight.
The man had not seen Moody since they parted ways that day at the airport, but he said Moody was able to communicate to him his need for a savior and that encounter with Lanny Moody had changed his life forever.
Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.