Renowned motorcycle stunt man Robert "Evel" Knievel, known to fans as "America's Legendary Daredevil," passed away Friday, just months after his televised baptism at California's Crystal Cathedral.
Knievel, 69, died at his Clearwater, Fla. home after struggling for years with numerous health problems, including diabetes, Hepatitis C, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – a terminal lung disease. The daredevil's death comes nearly 7 months after his baptism at the Crystal Cathedral on Palm Sunday, April 1, 2007.
Baptized by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller on the church's weekly Hour of Power program, Knievel's actions and testimony given during the service moved over 500 other congregants to rededicate their lives to God, Schuller told Christianity Today.
"We started singing 'Amazing Grace,' and I started baptizing people, baptizing them as fast as I could," Schuller said. "I had a little candy dish of water. 'What's your name? Okay, I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit' — crying the whole time and going to the next one."
A self-proclaimed rebel and "sinner," Knievel, whose lavish recreational life included multiple private jets and sports cars, accepted Jesus Christ after experiencing the "power of God" in a Daytona hotel in March.
"I don't know what in the world happened. I don't know if it was the power of the prayer or God Himself, but it just reached out, either while I was driving or walking down the sidewalk or sleeping, and it just — the power of God in Jesus just grabbed me," Knievel testified. "All of a sudden, I just believed in Jesus Christ. I did, I believed in him! I rose up in bed and, I was by myself, and I said, 'Devil, Devil, you bastard you, get away from me. I cast you out of my life.' I just got on my knees and prayed that God would put his arms around me and never, ever, ever let me go."
Although coming late in his life, Knievel's faith was of primary importance to him during his last months, according to an excerpt posted on the biker's website.
"Most important to him above all was his new-found faith in Jesus Christ," reads the site. "Just as he always took great care in surrounding himself with the best people he could depend upon to help him make his jumps during his motorcycle career, Knievel found his greatest friend of all in preparation for his final leap from life. He was profoundly happy that he gave his life to God, who comforted him and gave him the strength he needed to make it through the end."
Public services for Knievel will be held at the Butte, Montana Civic Center, 11:00 a.m., Monday, Dec. 10, according to Knievel's website. Knievel is survived by his wife, Krystal Kennedy Kenievel, former wife, Linda Bork Knievel, and their four children – son Kelly, daughter-in-law Shelli, son Robbie, and daughter Tracey.