Billy Graham crusade soloist remembered at memorial service Sund - WNEM TV 5

Billy Graham crusade soloist remembered at memorial service Sunday

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Nearly a thousand friends and family gathered at the Anderson Auditorium in Montreat, NC to remember Billy Graham Crusades soloist George Beverly Shea.

Shea passed away Tuesday, April 16, at the age of 104 after an illness.

"He was a wonderful man..he loved so many people..he was simple he was funny...he loved going to his cottage in Canada," Shea's son Ron Shea said.

"Our children and their friends called Bev "Papa Shea." Bev was at all times a loving husband to our mother...doting grandfather to our children," Step-son Steve Aceto said.

"Not only did you notice the twinkle in his eye but the praise on his lips," Reverand David Bruce said.

Shea sang for nearly 60 years at Billy Graham Crusades. He remained active in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and is often best remembered for his rendition of the song "How Great Thou Art."

"For more than 70 years, I had the privilege of introducing ‘America's Beloved Gospel Singer,'" said Cliff Barrows. "And, oh, how the people would listen. Billy Graham said he'd rather hear Bev sing than anybody. So would we all."

According to the Billy Graham Association: Between crusades, radio and television appearances, Shea sang at hundreds of concerts and recorded more than 70 albums of sacred music. At age 23 he composed the music to one of his best known solos, "I'd Rather Have Jesus."

Shea was the recipient of ten Grammy nominations, a Grammy Award in 1965, and was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Grammy organization in 2011. He was also a member of the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame and Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Shea will be laid to rest on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte during a private ceremony on Monday, April 22. The Billy Graham Library and grounds will be closed to the public and will reopen for visitors on Tuesday, April 23.

An exhibit honoring Shea is now back on display at the library.

It details Shea's involvement with the crusades and shows several pictures and awards.

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