ORANGE, Calif. (AP) — Arvella Schuller, who helped her pastor husband found the Crystal Cathedral megachurch in Southern California and hallmark "Hour of Power" televangelism program seen by millions of viewers around the globe, died on Tuesday. She was 84.
Schuller, who was married to the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, passed away unexpectedly and peacefully at University of California, Irvine Medical Center in Orange after a brief illness, said her daughter, Carol Schuller Milner.
Schuller helped her husband start a ministry at an Orange County drive-in movie theater in 1955 and grow it into a megachurch — housed in a landmark glass-paned building — with a global television reach.
Arvella Schuller was born and raised in a farming community in Iowa. She was the organist at her husband's church at the drive-in and served as executive producer and program director for the "Hour of Power" worldwide television ministry, which began broadcasting in 1970. She also developed a private school affiliated with the church, according to ministry officials.
At its peak, the "Hour of Power" broadcast attracted 20 million viewers, but it saw a decline in viewership and donations after a rocky leadership transition.
The ministry filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and the Schullers resigned from the church's board two years later amid a legal dispute over the rights to the pastor's books and teachings.
Arvella Schuller is survived by her husband, five children, 19 grandchildren, two sisters and a brother — and the loving hospital staff who cared for her in her final hours, Milner said.
"She is magnetic in attracting people to her," her daughter said. "They had just fallen in love with her."
Both of the Schullers fell ill a little over a week ago and were hospitalized. The Rev. Schuller was released to a rehabilitation facility and expected to see his wife again when they both returned home, Milner said.
The family is planning a private memorial service.
Today, the towering glass sanctuary built in 1980 to house the Crystal Cathedral is owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. The Crystal Cathedral's congregation moved to a nearby church and renamed itself Shepherd's Grove. It is led by one of the Schullers' grandsons, Bobby Schuller.
"She was the power behind the Hour of Power," Bobby Schuller wrote in a message on the ministry's website. "Her music, vision, and care for the message has touched countless hearts."