By WBTV Web Staff | February 21, 2020 at 7:21 AM EST – Updated February 21 at 9:11 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Charlotte-born evangelist Reverend William Franklin “Billy” Graham Jr. died two years ago of natural causes at his family home in Montreat, NC, just outside Asheville. He was 99 years old.
“I have followed Billy Graham since I was a little girl. In the 70′s and 80′s we watched him on T.V. He was an icon. He taught people to live biblically not politically, not hate but just to love God,” said Patricia Laraway told WBTV News.
Reverend Graham was laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Ruth Graham, in Charlotte shortly after passing away on February, 21, 2018.
His grave marker is a field stone that reads: Billy Graham, November 7, 1918 – February 21, 2018, Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ John 14:8.
Graham’s funeral service was held under a huge white tent set up in the parking lot in front of the Billy Graham Library. The service was private, open only to 2,300 invited guests.
“On February twenty-first, heaven came down,” Graham’s sister, Jean Ford, said. “They took my brother from me.”
Graham’s children, Virginia “Gigi” Graham, Anne Graham Lotz, Ruth Graham, Nelson “Ned” Graham, and Franklin Graham spoke about their father, each with a different message.
Rev. Graham’s son, Franklin, said told WBTV News his father was laid to rest with a bible next to him in his casket.
“We felt this was symbolic since he stood behind a pulpit most of his life preaching the Gospel,” Franklin Graham said.
That casket was built by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. At Rev. Graham’s request, Angola inmates built his plywood casket back in 2006, WAFB reported. Rev. Graham’s son said the casket was made by convicted murderers.
“Communication is very difficult with him. It’s just hard at this point in life,” Franklin Graham said in February 2017. “As a result of not being able to understand what people are saying, he just kind of shuts down.”
“He’s lived a long life,” Franklin Graham said. “He spoke to more people than any other person in history – I’m talking about live, you know, in a live audience.”
On the day of his death, U.S. leaders paid their respects to Rev. Graham on social media.
“The GREAT Billy Graham is dead,” tweeted President Donald Trump. “There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”
Former President Barack Obama called Graham “a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”
The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018
Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 21, 2018
President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence attended the funeral, along with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, former Governor Pat McCrory, and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles.
Some of Graham’s guests included Sarah Palin, Joel Osteen, Steve Curtis, Rudy Giuliani, Kathie L Gifford, Jerry Richardson, Rick Warren and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Reverend Graham was buried beside his late wife, Ruth, whose grave is at the foot of the cross-shaped brick walkway in the Library’s Prayer Garden.
Ruth Bell Graham passed away in 2007.
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