• Jean Graham Ford on Billy Graham: ‘He's always been a big brother hero'


    The Rev. Billy Graham was adored by millions around the world, but he was especially adored by his younger sister, Jean Graham Ford.

    [SPECIAL SECTION: The Rev. Billy Graham]

    [Rev. Billy Graham, known as 'America's Pastor,' dies at 99]

    Jean is the only surviving sibling of the evangelical leader who passed away Wednesday morning at 99 years old.

    “He’s always been a big brother hero to me, and always will be. He’s not perfect, but he’s almost perfect,” Jean said.

    Channel 9 spoke to Jean hours after she learned her brother had passed away. She said when she received the news of his passing, it wasn't a surprise.

    "We've been waiting for this for quite a while. He has not been well for quite a while. No pain, no suffering. We are thankful for that," she said.

    There was a 14-year age difference between the two, but they’ve always been incredibly close.

    Jean and her husband Leighton Ford last visited her brother at his home in Montreat around Christmas.

    "He looked wonderful. He didn't look emaciated. His color was good. Big shock of white hair that was gorgeous. He looked like a man in good health, but he wasn't," Jean said.

    Jean said at the time, he couldn't speak, but they joined hands, and he was moved by a song.

    "We sang one of his crusade songs. I sang to him and we all joined in, 'Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine,' and his lips kind of moved," Jean said.

    Jean remembered the moment the two said goodbye.

    "When I walked out the door, I said, 'Billy Frank, I'm gonna go to Charlotte now, and I wish I could take you with me,' and he said, 'Oh my,' and those were the last words I heard him say," Jean said.

    Leighton said he believes Rev. Graham's painting of an old, open wooden gate that once stood on the family property is symbolic of the evangelical leader's journe y.

    "Jesus is the gate and Billy pointed people there. Ruth has gone through that gate. He'll go through that gate to the Lord. The great shepherd said, 'I give to my sheep eternal life,' that's what he did," Leighton said.

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