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Ruth Graham, Wife of Evangelist Billy Graham,
Buried at Graham Library [MAIN STORY]
s his wife Ruth was buried Sunday (June 17) at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., her evangelist husband said he looked forward to joining her in heaven.
"The Bible says the Lord has prepared a place for us and I know he has prepared a home for her -- I hope she saves a room for me," Billy Graham said at a private interment ceremony at the new library. "I believe the Lord has brought us to this point. I am looking forward to the day when we'll have the next service here."
Ruth Graham, 87, died Thursday (June 14) after suffering from ill health in recent years. On the day before her death, she and her husband announced that they had decided to be buried at the foot of a cross-shaped walkway in the prayer garden of the library. The library, which is adjacent to the headquarters of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was dedicated on May 31.
Billy Graham also spoke briefly at his wife's public memorial service on Saturday at the Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, N.C.
"Ruth was an incredible woman," he said of his wife of more than 63 years. "I wish you could look in her casket because she is so beautiful.
Billy Graham, 88, has Parkinson's disease and other ailments and said his strength is "limited." During her mother's funeral, Virginia "Gigi" Graham read one of the family's favorite selections from Ruth Graham's poetry.
Ruth Graham was buried in a simple plywood coffin, made by prisoners from Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana.
During a visit to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Lousiana., in 2005, something caught the eye of evangelist Franklin Graham, son of world-famous preacher Billy Graham.
On display in the prison's museum was a plywood coffin built by the prison's inmates. It was, Franklin Graham decided, the type of coffin he would bury his parents in. His mother, Ruth, was buried in one of the Angola coffins on June 17 at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. Ruth Graham died at her Montreat, N.C., home on Thursday at age 87.
"He just freaked out," Angola warden Burl Cain said of Franklin Graham's reaction to the handmade coffins. "He said, `This is what my dad would want to be buried in."'
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in a statement, said the younger Graham was "struck by the simplicity and beauty of the casket. The simple, very basic design is symbolic of the life of Ruth Graham."
On the same visit, Cain said, Franklin Graham donated $200,000 for a 340-seat chapel at the prison. Now, he said, "we have the Graham Chapel over by death row."
The Grahams' coffins, into which are burned the names of the incarcerated carpenters who built them, were completed and sent to North Carolina in December.
Inmate Richard "Grasshopper" Liggett, who died of cancer in March, played a key role in getting the coffins built. A native of Wichita, Kansas., Liggett began serving a life sentence at Angola in 1971 for a murder in New Orleans. At the prison, he was the leader of a small team of inmates who build the coffins in the prison's wood shop.
"He built his own coffin," Cain said.
Today Liggett is buried in that coffin next to his mother in his hometown. When he began his tenure at the prison, Cain said, inmates were buried in cheap, "almost cardboard" coffins. "I thought, `This is crazy. We have all these woodworkers. We'll build our own coffins."'
When Franklin Graham decided to have Angola inmates build his parents' coffins, plus two more for their best friends, he said he wanted them built just as if they were for inmates, Cain said.
And except for a few modifications, such as a top that allows for viewing of the upper part of the body and handles that fold down, the Grahams' caskets are identical to those provided for prisoners.
Cain said he offered different materials to Franklin Graham, but he said: "No, use the birch plywood. That makes me feel good."
The coffins, which are lined with a mattress pad, cost about $200 each. But they aren't simply unfinished plywood boxes. The inmates stain the coffins by hand. Their tops, rather than being just flat sheets of wood, are crafted with a slight pitch. "It's a beautiful coffin," Cain said. "We're humbled they would use a coffin built by our inmates."
Daniel Monteverde writes for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans