MONTROSE -- One of the world's most famous Christian evangelists has died. The Rev. Billy Graham passed away Monday morning at his home in North Carolina.
Decades ago, Rev. Graham made a memorable appearance in our area.
Rev. Graham was ordained a minister in 1939 at age 21, with his final preaching coming in 2005 at the age of 86. His style became known as fiery, yet inspirational. He influenced millions during his time as an evangelist and even made a trip to Montrose during the early part of his career.
Rev. Graham, also known as America's pastor, died at the age of 99. During his storied career, it was estimated that he preached to hundreds of millions of people all around the globe, captivating many in the process.
"He really had integrity that went beyond even his clear message of what the bible said. He lived what the bible said. He didn't just preach it," said Pastor Bob Kadlecik of Bridgewater Church in Montrose.
"He had a longstanding message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he was able to deliver it in such a powerful way and he connected with people," said James Baker, president of Montrose Broadcasting Corp.
During his time as a pastor, Billy Graham had an impact on a countless number of people, including some folks in the Montrose area.
"Well, actually, our founder W. Douglas Rowe and his wife Natalie were acquaintances of Billy Graham. He extended an invitation to Billy Graham to come speak. On a Sunday afternoon in the late '40s or '50s, Billy Graham came to Montrose and spoke at the Montrose Bible Conference. Word has it that the place was packed. It was filled to the brim and cars were lined up and down the streets of Montrose when Graham was in Montrose that day," Baker said.
"There are people in our church who saw Billy Graham on TV or went to a rally and prayed to accept Christ as their savior and God changed their lives through Billy Graham. He was just everywhere," Pastor Kadlecik said.
Bridgewater Church tells Newswatch 16 that one of its former pastors, Charles Omen, played in a brass group for Billy Graham in the 1940s that performed at a Madison Square Garden rally.