As he turns 99, Billy Graham remains in 'stable' health, despite challenges of old age

BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (CITIZEN-TIMES) -- 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.

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"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."

The 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.

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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.

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