Sunday, February 2, 2009, Bev Shea (as he prefers to be called) marked his 100th birthday. He told one interviewer, "On the ladder of life, I have reached rung 100, and I can see the scenery a little better than those who are still climbing."
The years certainly have not diminished his sense of humor. Nor have they silenced his song. He still loves to sing at celebrations and events connected to Billy Graham's ministry. And he recently told an interviewer that he loves taking his speed boat for a run whenever possible. This centenarian enjoys working on his computer, too.
Bev Shea has been involved as a soloist with Billy Graham and his ministry since 1947. At the time Graham was pastor of the Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois. In a September 2007 interview Shea recalled how he first met Billy Graham:
"One morning, there was a rap on my office door. I looked out and there was a tall young man with blond hair and we shook hands. He was 21 and I was 31. It was Billy Graham and he had traveled in from Wheaton College on a train just to say 'hello.' He said he listened to my morning hymn show called 'Hymns From The Chapel.' That's how we first got acquainted. I came into this work with Mr. Graham in 1947 after we had exchanged letters and talked on the phone. He said he wanted me to be his gospel singer. I thanked him, but told him the only gospel singers I've ever heard about would sing a verse or two and stop and talk awhile. 'Would I have to do that?' I asked him. He chuckled and said, 'I hope not.' With that, I said, 'Well, I'd like to come with you. That was in November of 1947 and I've been with him ever since."I met Bev Shea over twenty years ago in Atlanta when we had a brief and causal conversation. We were in a hotel lobby where we had both just checked out. I had to tell him “thank you” for his sharing his golden gospel voice with the world and for writing the songs, “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and “The Wonder of It All.” His gracious reply went something like this, “Imagine this…I wrote that song (I’d Rather Have Jesus) as just a young lad and here I am in my eighty’s and still singing it.”
Last week, Neil Enloe wrote the following which I think is a most fitting tribute to the man who rightfully has often been called "America's Beloved Gospel Singer."
"While the whole nation clamors for the Super Bowl this Sunday, I would just like to remind you that a real Super Hero is celebrating his 100th birthday on the same day. George Beverly Shea becomes a centenarian with Heaven's distinguished service award as a Gospel singer. We all should be so fortunate, huh?I agree with Russ Busby of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association who wrote, "When most singers finish a performance, the audience is left thinking about what a great singer he is. But whenever George Beverly Shea finishes his song, we are all left thinking about our relationship with God."
"What's a Super Bowl game that took only a year to ripen and could go either direction, compared to the well-seasoned, committed career of a humble servant of Jesus Christ who never lowered his standard of excellence or his integrity?
"I'm certainly not trying to dampen the excitement of the big game, but for my part I would rather receive the "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" Award, than to have Super Bowl rings on all eight fingers. And while Mr. Shea's big milestone will doubtless be overshadowed by the game, the triumph of his lifetime accomplishments for Christ will most certainly be the object of the party of Heavenly hosts, where the real score is kept. One party will hand out rings; the other, crowns."
Happy 100th Birthday Mr. George Beverly Shea! It’s not too late to leave him a “Happy Birthday” wish on his website.