“Fixer Upper” episode was bittersweet for local veteran

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Vietnam veteran Bill Graham watched this week’s “Fixer Upper” from the modest Waco house whose renovation the episode featured, but the night was bittersweet because his wife of 45 years didn’t live long enough to see the show.

Waco veteran Bill Graham next to a photograph of his late wife, Sherry. (Photo by Julie Hays)

“She was a pretty woman,” Graham said, as he looked at a photograph of his wife, Sherry, during an interview with KWTX this week.

“She had lung cancer and they cured the lung cancer and they thought she was cancer-free,” Graham said.

“But, they did the last test and it was in her back and her liver. And the doctor was up-front. He gave her six months and she lasted two.”

“When she got out of the hospital for the last time, she said ‘Don't ever take me back, right here is where I want to be’”, Graham said.

“And that’s where she died. Right there. Right next to my bed.”

Sherry Graham was 69 when she died on Oct. 31, surrounded by family members in a house now familiar to millions of “Fixer Upper” fans around the world, but she did live long enough to see the results of what her husband calls a labor of love.

She was too ill during the renovation to watch the actual transformation of the couple’s 800-square foot house, but she was there for the reveal as the “Fixer Upper” crew shot video for the episode, which aired Tuesday night on HGTV.

“If you noticed she wasn't getting around real well then,” Graham said.

“She was actually in St. Catherine's in rehab but they let her out long enough to do the reveal. When she saw the house for the first time, every room she went in she was saying ‘Oh my gosh!’”

“It meant everything to her,” Graham said.

“She was very appreciative of everything. Her words were ‘I can't believe they picked us.’”

“It’s like the lotto. Somebody wins it so we got lucky.”

Robert Griffin III and “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines teamed up to remodel the home after learning of Bill Graham’s nearly four decades of service in the Army and National Guard, during which he served in Germany and Vietnam, and received a number of awards including the Army Achievement Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal with four bronze stars.

Graham developed prostate cancer, as a result of exposure to Agent Orange, and stenosis of the spine.

Griffin’s foundation "Family of 3" was looking to help a local veteran, and Graham was an obvious choice.

“I am so excited that we were able to be a part of this and make this happen,” the Cleveland Browns quarterback said.

“It’s such a blessing to be able to help Mr. Graham and his amazing family.”

Sherry didn’t meet the Baylor Heisman Trophy winner until he dropped by the hospital for a surprise visit.

The remodeled house, which was renovated with the help of a number of local businesses, has nearly twice the living space.

“When we had family dinners before people would be eating in the kitchen and outside,” Graham said.

“Now we can all be together.”

And the improvements made life much better for Sherry, Graham’s son Billy said.

“For the short time mom was here, you wouldn't believe the difference it made,” he said.

“She was on a walker, so the hallways and the doors were wider and that made it a lot easier for her."

“What it meant to me was finally somebody saw that a deserving person got something that they deserved,” he said.