Visitors pay respect with flowers, tears

Outside, at the end of a cross-shaped walkway, workers readied the ground for her burial in a plywood coffin.

Inside, tourists watched a video of her life and paged through copies of her poetry books.

And at the entrance of the Billy Graham Library, admirers of Ruth Bell Graham, who died Thursday at 87, left bouquets of flowers.

The Charlotte library is named after the world-famous evangelist, but it was his wife, a devout Christian and evangelizing author-teacher, who was on everybody's mind Friday.

"I know she's with the Lord; I guess you can take peace and happiness from that," said Lori Gardner of Wilson, who lingered with her husband and two kids in "Ruth's Room," an exhibit that includes a re-creation of the living room at the Grahams' rustic home in Montreat.

In the library's bookstore, "Ruth's Attic," Pat Hoffman of Fort Myers, Fla., bought a copy of "Footprints of a Pilgrim: The Life and Loves of Ruth Bell Graham." It tells the story of a woman who stayed at home, tending to the kids and living her faith, while her husband went off to preach in 185 countries.

"She had to be a terrific woman to raise five children by herself," said Hoffman.

On Thursday, which began with news that Ruth Graham was near death, about 800 people went through the library.

By Friday, with her obituary on front pages across the country, the tourists were joined by TV camera crews and workers getting the grounds ready for the family-only burial service on Sunday.

A statement released late Friday by the Grahams said Ruth Graham will be buried in a plywood coffin lined with a mattress pad.

At the Grahams' request, the $200 box was built by Richard "Grasshopper" Liggett and fellow inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La.

They also built one for Billy Graham, 88, who will someday be buried next to his wife.