April 17th, 2013
11:45 AM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN) – George Beverly Shea, a noted gospel singer and close confidant to evangelical leader Billy Graham, died Tuesday evening after "a brief illness," according to the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. He was 104.
Shea had been hospitalized after a stroke, association spokesman Brent Rinehart said.
In honoring Shea's death, the evangelical organization noted that the singer had "carried the Gospel in song to every continent and every state in the Union."
"I first met Bev Shea while in Chicago when he was on Moody Radio," Graham said in a statement. "As a young man starting my ministry, I asked Bev if he would join me. He said yes and for over 60 years we had the privilege of ministering together across the country and around the world."
He continued, "Bev was one of the most humble, gracious men I have ever known and one of my closest friends. I loved him as a brother."
Reaction to Shea's death lit up Twitter, with fans across the country remembering "a remarkable man" who led a life of "great significance."
Shea recorded more than 70 sacred music albums, according to the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. The work earned him a Grammy in 1965 - for his "Southland Favorites" album - and nine other nominations from the prestigious organization.
Additionally, the Grammy organization honored Shea with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
"Even though Bev was 10 years older than my father, he never acted his age," Graham said. "He was absolute fun to be with. Bev was one of the most gracious and unassuming men I have known. He was always encouraging and supportive, a man of deep faith and strong commitment to Jesus Christ."
Shea, born in Winchester, Ontario, on February 1, 1909, was the son of a Methodist minister. His father taught him the violin, and his mother taught him the piano and organ. He started singing in the choir of his father's church.
Shea is survived by his wife, Karlene, and two children from his first marriage, Ronald and Elaine, according to the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.
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