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Ruth Graham Upstages Husband At Ribbon-Cutting

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ASHEVILLE (AP) — April 26, 1996 - 4:09 a.m. EDT

Just by showing up, Ruth Graham upstaged her famous husband, Billy Graham, at a ceremony to rename a stretch of highway in honor of the evangelist.

``When I left her she was still in bed,'' Graham told about 300 people attending the roadside event Thursday to rename Interstate 240 in Asheville as the Billy Graham Freeway. ``I'm sure she left without her doctor's permission.''

Less than three weeks ago, Mrs. Graham was released from an Asheville hospital after a near-fatal bout with bacterial spinal meningitis.

So it wasn't surprising that officials paid particular attention to her arrival after the ceremony had started. Earlier, they told the crowd that they were hoping she could attend.

Graham seemed most surprised to see his wife on the stage.

``Her doctor told me two weeks ago he did not know if she would live through the night,'' he said.

Graham himself was making his first public appearance in several months because of his own serious health problems. In December, the 77-year-old preacher was hospitalized after falling and breaking four ribs in a New York hotel.

``We've both had some difficulties,'' he said. ``I haven't been able to conduct my public ministry so I've spent the last five months working on my memoirs.''

The Grahams did not have to travel very far to attend Thursday's ceremony. They live about 20 minutes east of Asheville in the small mountain town of Montreat.

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