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Mourners Pay Respects To Billy Graham

Through his ministry, Billy Graham’s sermons reached people across the globe of varied denominations, races and economic backgrounds. That outreach was evident in the diverse people who came to the Billy Graham Library today, to pay their respects.

Credit Billy Graham Library
A portrait of Rev. Billy Graham that hangs in the home that Billy Graham grew up in, that was moved to the Billy Graham Library site.

A continuous flow of people came to the Billy Graham Library throughout the day, some in wheelchairs, some walking through the gates with their hands raised and praying, some brought flowers and many had tears in their eyes or laughed nervously to mask their pain.

“I’m so teary, I can’t see how to operate my phone here,” said Tim Laraway from New York. He and his wife Patricia were house hunting when they heard the news. With tears rolling down her face, Patricia called Graham an icon who had a major impact on her life.

“I’ve followed Billy Graham since I was a little girl. In the 70s and 80s, we watched him on television only had three stations and we worshiped him and I loved him. My husband is a new Christian and when we heard we got teary-eyed and said we had to pay our respects,” she said.

The couple took a tour of the Graham home house that was originally in southeast Charlotte. Many employees like Dave Harrell called Graham’s passing a time to celebrate because they say he’s with God now.

“I feel great and thank the Lord for allowing me to serve at the Billy Graham Library and privileged to share the life and ministry of Billy Graham over the years,” Harrell said.

In the home’s kitchen, Jim Thompson of Melbourne, Florida stood alone admiring pictures. He was in Charlotte for business.  

“I heard it on the news and figured this was a perfect place to be today. I grew up hearing him preach, I’m so fortunate to be here this time,” Thompson said. “I’ve never been here before so it’s fortuitous that I’m here this day with some time and was able to come and be a tiny piece of history.”

John Jusu from Sierre Leone was also in Charlotte on business. He says he listened to Graham often growing up and even attended one of his crusades.

“I think he has planted a seed in the hearts of so many around the world and the seed has grown and it’s up to us to produce more seeds and let his legacy continue,” Jusu said. “He is a trailblazer and so we will by God’s grace continue to work in his footsteps.”

In the main building, Bishop Anthony Ray of Virginia watched a film on Graham. He says he received part of his ministry training from Graham’s Evangelistic Association. Ray says Graham was an important figure for his entire family.

“We’d sit around the television and watch the crusades and my sister gave her life to Christ watching the crusades in the 70s and she’s in ministry today, and so he’s impacted our lives in so many ways."

Walking along the grounds with her teenage daughter Caitlin and Goddaughter Jaden Villa, Ruth Narvaez, visiting from New York says she decided to come and pay her respects immediately after hearing of Graham’s passing.

“I’m feeling a little sad but joyful because I know where he is and the impact, his legacy will live on through his son Franklin,” Narvaez said.

She said it was important to bring the teens with her because, “You have to keep his memory alive and we need more people him and maybe they will be another Billy Graham or Ruth Graham (his wife).”

The family continued their walk to join others along the path that leads to the Memorial Garden where Ruth Graham is buried. Rev. Billy Graham will buried by her side.