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As he turns 99, Billy Graham remains in 'stable' health, despite challenges of old age
Back in 2013, world-famous evangelist and Montreat resident Billy Graham told a group of people that he might just live to be 100.
It's looking more like that vision might just come true.
Graham, who struggles with many of the maladies of old age but overall is in stable health, is giving Methuselah a run for his money. Graham turns 99 Tuesday.
"As a family, we are just so very grateful that he is still with us," Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said in a statement. "His mind is good but he’s quieter these days. He can’t see or hear well, but his health is stable."
Family will spend time with Billy Graham on his birthday — and bring his favorite cake, lemon cake with lard icing. Yep, lard icing apparently is one of Rev. Graham's secrets to longevity.
"He loves those cakes — but it has to have the lard icing," Franklin Graham said.
They also plan a special celebration at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, the city where Graham was born. Nov. 7 is also the 10th anniversary of the opening of the library, which tells Graham's life story and serves as a repository of Billy Graham memorabilia and displays.
"We’ll have birthday cake for everyone who comes by," Franklin Graham said.
The elder Graham has endured respiratory problems and other health issues in recent years, but he still lives in his home in Montreat, a small community near Black Mountain. Graham and his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007, raised their five children in Montreat.
Asheville resident Glenn W. Wilcox, Sr., founder of Wilcox World Travel and a close friend of Billy Graham's, said he last saw Graham a few months ago at Graham's home.
"I've been getting reports on him, and all in all, he's doing as well as any 99-year-old person can do," said Wilcox, 85. "God’s protecting him. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future."
Wilcox said he's constantly amazed at how God has used Billy Graham and continues to use the organization he founded to bring people to Jesus Christ. Wilcox has known Billy Graham for more than a half-century, and for decades his travel company handled Graham's travel arrangements.
Wilcox is also a devout Christian, and the two men became fast friends.
"One of the things I treasure more than anything else is my personal friendship with him for 52 years," Wilcox said. "That's a friendship I could never replace."
Billy Graham shot to fame in the late 1940s and 1950s, holding huge crowds spellbound with his passionate preaching at crusades throughout the world. While he had movie star good looks and charisma to spare, Graham kept the focus on bringing people to Jesus Christ.
While he mostly eschewed politics, Graham has personally counseled or met with 12 presidents, ranging from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
Graham's last crusade was in New York City in 2005, although he did join Franklin Graham and speak at an event in New Orleans in 2006. On his 95th birthday, Billy Graham attended a birthday bash at the Omni Grove Park Inn organized by Franklin and others that featured appearances by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and current president Donald Trump.
Billy Graham has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history — nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories, according to the BGEA website. He's reached hundreds of millions more through television, video, film, and webcasts.
He's also authored 33 books.
Franklin Graham said the BGEA will honor "what God has done through" his father by highlighting significant moments of his life and eight decades of ministry.
"The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is moving strong into the future, but it’s also important to celebrate the past, so each month we will focus on a particular decade and highlight significant things like his 16-week evangelistic crusade in New York City, his impact on worldwide evangelism and personal testimonies of people whose lives were forever changed at one of my father’s crusades," Franklin Graham said.
The organization will also share special content about Billy Graham on the billygraham.org website, and in Decision magazine.
"My father always wants the focus to be on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not on him; and so we will point to the amazing ways God has worked in lives around the world, through the ministry of Billy Graham," Franklin Graham said, adding that his father always appreciates prayers from the public.
About Billy Graham
Born: William (Billy) F. Graham, Jr., Nov 7, 1918, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Parents: William Franklin Graham, Sr., Morrow Coffey Graham. They were dairy farmers.
Married: Ruth McCue Bell, 1943 (She died in 2007). They met at Wheaton College in Illinois. Bell was the daughter of a missionary surgeon, and she spent the first 17 years of her life in China.
Children: Virginia (born 1945), Anne Morrow (1948), Ruth Bell (1950), William Franklin, III (1952), Nelson Edman (1958).
Ordained: 1939 by Peniel Baptist Church in Palatka, Fla. (a church in the Southern Baptist Convention).
Education: Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida). Wheaton College in Illinois.
Career: After graduating college, Graham pastored the Village Church of Western Springs (now Western Springs Baptist Church) in Western Springs, Ill., before joining Youth for Christ, an organization founded for ministry to youth and servicemen during World War II. He preached throughout the United States and in Europe in the immediate post-war era, emerging as a rising young evangelist. The Los Angeles Crusade in 1949 launched Graham into international prominence. Scheduled for three weeks, the crusade was extended to more than eight weeks.
BGEA: Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1950. It was headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, until relocating to Charlotte in 2003.
Media: Through BGEA, Graham started the weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program, heard around the world for more than 60 years; and television programs that are still broadcast today on national Christian networks. He also started a syndicated newspaper column, “My Answer,” which is still carried by newspapers, including the Citizen-Times, both nationally and internationally. He also founded “Decision” magazine, the official publication of the Association, which has a circulation of more than 425,000.
Books: Graham has written 33 books, many of which have become top sellers. His autobiography “Just As I Am,” published in 1997, achieved a “triple crown,” appearing simultaneously on the three top best-seller lists in one week.
Most admired: Graham is regularly listed by the Gallup organization as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World." In 2015, his made his 60th appearance overall in the list and his 54th consecutively.
Family: Graham lost his wife of nearly 64 years, Ruth Bell Graham, in June of 2007. Together they had three daughters, two sons, 19 grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren.
Residence: Graham lives in Montreat, a community near Black Mountain.