June 15, 2007
On a recent visit to Ruth and Billy Graham's beloved home in the western North Carolina mountains, her local pastor recalled, the world's most renowned evangelist fumbled the words to the 23rd Psalm one of his wife's favorites. As she had so many times before, Ruth Graham quickly corrected her husband.
It was yet another little reminder of the role Ruth Graham
played as her husband's closest confidant, the Rev. Richard White
said. The first lady of evangelical Protestantism, she undoubtedly
was an equal partner in a ministry that Billy Graham carried to
presidents and peasants alike during a spectacular global career
that placed him in the pulpit before more than 210 million people.
"She had the ability to move among presidents and leaders, but
then turn right around and clean the oven of a widow," White said.
A daughter of Presbyterian missionaries who surrendered dreams
of such work in Tibet after meeting Billy Graham, Ruth Graham died
Thursday at her home, surrounded by her husband and all five of
their children. She was 87.
"Whenever I was asked to name the finest Christian I ever met,
I always replied, 'My wife, Ruth,"' Billy Graham said in a
statement released Friday. "She was a spiritual giant, whose
unparalleled knowledge of the Bible and commitment to prayer were a
challenge and inspiration to everyone who knew her."
"In her last days she talked repeatedly of heaven, and although
I will miss her more than I can possibly say, I rejoice that some
day soon we will be reunited in the presence of the Lord she loved
and served so faithfully."
Former President George H.W. Bush remembered her Friday as "a
wonderful, kind and wise woman who brightened all our lives."
Nancy Reagan described her as a friend to her and late President
Reagan and an extraordinarily caring woman who was devoted to her
family. "I admired the fact that she also found the time to care
about other children and those less fortunate through her work as
an author, poet and philanthropist," she said. "I know Billy's
heart will be broken with this loss."
Ruth Graham had been bedridden for months with degenerative
osteoarthritis of the back and neck, the result of a serious fall
from a tree in 1974 while fixing a swing for grandchildren, and
underwent treatment for pneumonia two weeks ago. At her request,
and in consultation with her family, she had stopped receiving
nutrients through a feeding tube for the last few days, said family
spokesman Larry Ross.
The couple's five children will speak at a public memorial
service scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Montreat Conference
Center, but Billy Graham will not. A private interment service will
be held the next day in Charlotte.