The Preacher's Wife

updated 02/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

Ruth Bell & Rev. Billy Graham
August 13, 1943

Before he even asked her out, Graham had written to his family to say that Ruth, a fellow student at Wheaton College in Illinois, was the girl he would marry. They spent their first date at a performance of Handel's Messiah—and marry they did, in the village of Montreat, N.C., in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where they still live. Although Graham, 78, told her before the wedding, "God will lead me, and you will do the following," Ruth, 76, says, "I come from a long line of strong-minded people." Unlike the rest of the world, Ruth addresses her famous husband as Bill.

Suzette Estrada & Rabbi Harold S. Kushner
March 27, 1960

They met in the lunchroom of Manhattan's Jewish Theological Seminary and later had a big wedding with three rabbis officiating. "We had something like three violins, cellos, a clarinet, all original music," says Suzette, 61, a homemaker. After Aaron, 14, the older of their two children, died of progeria (which causes premature aging) in 1977, Kushner, now 61, was inspired to write the bestselling When Bad Things Happen to Good People. "When one of us was weak, the other managed to be strong, and when one was down, the other was up," he says. "We always had trust in each other."

Justine Jones & Rev. Joseph "Run" Simmons
June 25, 1994

Before he was the Reverend Run, he was simply Run, as in Run-D.M.C, the rap group that hit the charts with its 1986 remake of Aerosmith's Walk This Way. Now 32, he is ministering to a nondenominational congregation in New York City and still singing and producing. (Soul Tempo, one of his groups, performed in The Preacher's Wife.) Simmons and Jones dated as teens, broke up and reconnected in 1993. "I felt like I knew the great qualities she had before I married her," he says of Justine, 31. "She is very loving and very spiritual."

Arvella DeHaan & Rev. Robert Schuller
June 15, 1950

On their first date they went to a small church in Ashton, Iowa, where Robert, then a 22-year-old on vacation from Michigan's Western Theological Seminary, preached about the need to resist temptation. When they kissed good-night on her doorstep, though, 18-year-old Arvella teased him: "I guess I didn't learn much from your sermon tonight about saying no." When he proposed one year later, she wasn't sure about being married to a man of the cloth. "I was afraid I would live in a glass house and have to be perfect," says Arvella, 67. "Guess what?" responds her 70-year-old husband, one of the country's most successful preachers. "She ended up in a great big glass house—the Crystal Cathedral."

Bishop Harold Williams & Rev. Shirley Caesar
June 26, 1983

They were married in a Durham, N.C., high school auditorium because, says gospel artist Caesar, 58, an eight-time Grammy winner and now a minister herself, "there was no church big enough" for the 4,500 guests, many of them his congregants in the Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Holy Church. Williams, 75, sang "You Are So Beautiful"; Caesar sang a medley of "Let It Be Me" and "We Can Make It Together." "I've heard other preachers say they could never be married to a woman who was a minister," says Williams, "but this is a sharing, giving, cooperative thing. She goes to her pulpit, and I go to mine."

Monique Williams & Rev. Hezekiah Walker
December 25, 1992

Walker, 34, a Pentecostal minister in Brooklyn, whose choir from the Love Fellowship Tabernacle sang "The Lord Is My Shepherd" in The Preacher's Wife, met his bride, 31, at a public pool when they were teens. "I ended up joining the choir he was in," she says. In May 1992 he proposed in front of 4,000 people at a gospel concert. "I sang a song and asked her to marry me in the song," he says.

Sally Dobson & Rev, John C. Danforth
September 5, 1957

"I had the engagement ring on my finger for two days when he said he wanted to go to divinity school," says Sally, 59. "I cried for a week. My grandfather was a minister, and he took care of everyone else but himself and his own family." Danforth, 60, combined divinity school and law school at Yale. "He ended up being a politician and a priest," says his wife, a homemaker. But the three-term U.S. senator from Missouri and father of five didn't make her grandfather's mistake.

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