Retired evangelist Roy W. Gustafson, a longtime St. Petersburg resident who conducted tours of the Holy Land and was a friend of the Rev. Billy Graham, died Friday (April 12, 2002) in North Carolina. He was 87.
Mr. Gustafson, who moved to North Carolina last year, was a biblical scholar, an expert on the Holy Land and a member of the Billy Graham team since 1959.
"He could hold his own on any Bible-conference platform all over the world," said Pastor Jerry Lancaster of the Starkey Road Baptist Church in Seminole. "He made the Bible live."
Mr. Gustafson's Middle East tours included the ruins of Caesarea, where Cornelius became the first non-Jewish convert of Christianity, and Jezreel Valley, known by some as Armageddon.
Mr. Gustafson received several awards from government agencies in the Middle East. Among them are the Jerusalem Medallion from the mayor of Jerusalem, the Terra Sancta Award from the Israeli Government Tourist Office and a 25th anniversary bronze medal from the Israeli government.
Because of his love for the Holy Land and his knowledge of the Scriptures, Mr. Gustafson found his tours "very rewarding," said Lancaster, who went on three tours with Mr. Gustafson.
"He was a very gifted speaker," Lancaster said. "No question about it."
Mr. Gustafson also was known for his quick wit.
"He had a wonderful sense of humor," Lancaster said. "He always had a story to tell."
Mr. Gustafson is survived by his wife, Gwendolyn, daughters Sonja Hicks, Enid Yopp and Donella Lynn and grandchildren David Yopp and Paula Hicks.
"He had a great influence in my life," Lancaster said. "He spoke with such authority and had such compassion."
A memorial service will be officiated by the Rev. Franklin Graham on Tuesday at the Cove in Asheville, N.C. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Samaritan's Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, N.C. 28607 or to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis.