The Associated Press
June 16, 2007
Ruth Graham retained her beauty even in death and surely "had a
great reception in heaven," an ailing Billy Graham told mourners
who gathered Saturday to remember his beloved wife.
"I wish you could look in that casket because she's so
beautiful," said Graham, clinging to his walker. "She was a
Ruth Graham died Thursday at age 87 following a lengthy illness.
Her husband's closest confidant, she was remembered as a spiritual
stalwart and modest mentor who provided a solid foundation -- both
biblically and geographically -- for her globe-trotting
"The mama that we saw at home was the mama that the world saw,"
said their son, Franklin, who is now the head of the Billy Graham
Evangelistic Association. He recalled his mother's headstrong and
quirky nature, telling the crowd about the time she overcame a
locked bedroom door by crawling on the roof, throwing a cup of cold
water through his window to wake him.
"I thank you mama for your example, for your love, for your wit,
for your humor, for your craziness," he said. "I love you for all
of it and I'm going to miss you terribly."
After preaching to more than 210 million people around the world
during a six-decade career, Billy Graham, 88, is largely confined
to the couple's home in Montreat by several ailments, including
prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease. He wasn't expected to
speak Saturday but surprised the crowd with his words, perhaps
spurred by the sight of his 19 grandchildren.
"God bless all these grandchildren. Some of them I haven't seen
in a long time. Some of them I've never seen," he said, drawing
laughter from the audience. "Lots of love to everyone, and thank
He wiped a tear away a before leaving the auditorium. Family
spokesman Larry Ross said later that "the sense of loss is
beginning to settle in on him." Family members will hold a private
burial ceremony Sunday at the new Billy Graham Library in
Born in 1920 to medical missionaries in China, and after
spending some of her high school years in what is now North Korea,
Ruth Graham vowed to never marry and dreamed of working as a
missionary in Tibet.
That changed after she met Billy Graham at Wheaton College in
Illinois. They were married in 1943 at Montreat Presbyterian
Church, where she attended services for the rest of her life.
As Billy Graham took his crusades and traveling ministry around
the country and the world, Ruth Graham usually remained in the
small North Carolina mountain town of Montreat, raising their five
children while writing poetry, books and counseling college-age
Her sister, Rosa Montgomery, said Graham had charged ahead with
her spiritual mindset even as a young girl -- once praying that God
would soon make her a martyr. She was a devout and lifelong
Presbyterian, declining to undergo baptism by immersion even though
she was married to a famous Baptist preacher.
Ruth Graham was bedridden for months with degenerative
osteoarthritis of the back and neck, and fell into a coma on
Wednesday following a recent bout with pneumonia. A spokesman said
she died peacefully with her husband and all five of her children
at her bedside.
"Though our hearts are heavy with loss, we dare rejoice, for
Ruth is home with you," said Rev. Richard White, Graham's pastor at
Montreat Presbyterian. "Her sorrows are ended."
Her simple coffin, adorned with flowers, was chosen after son
Franklin noticed inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary
building the caskets for themselves and others who could not afford
to purchase regular coffins.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada