Laugh­ter, tears as for­mer first lady Bar­bara Bush re­mem­bered

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By JUAN A. LOZANO

HOUS­TON (AP) — Bar­bara Bush was re­mem­bered as the “first lady of the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion” dur­ing a fu­neral Satur­day at­tended by four for­mer U.S. pres­i­dents and hun­dreds of other peo­ple who filled a Hous­ton church with laugh­ter as much as tears, with many re­call­ing her quick wit and de­vo­tion to fam­ily.

For­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush joked that his mother called her style of rais­ing him and his sib­lings “’a benev­o­lent dic­ta­tor­ship’ — but hon­estly, it wasn’t al­ways benev­o­lent.” She was widely ad­mired for her plain­spo­ken style dur­ing her hus­band Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s pres­i­dency and was known as “The En­forcer” in her high-pow­ered fam­ily.

Jeb Bush said he could feel her pres­ence Satur­day in­side the na­tion’s largest Epis­co­pal church and that she would likely have given him ad­vice: “Jeb, keep it short. Don’t drag this out,” he said to chuck­les. He met her ex­pec­ta­tions with a speech last­ing about seven min­utes.

He choked up at one point while

ad­dress­ing the roughly 1,500 peo­ple seated in­side St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church, where his par­ents reg­u­larly wor­shipped, when say­ing his mother — known for her self-dep­re­cat­ing re­marks about her wrin­kles and white-gray hair — was “beau­ti­ful” un­til the very end.

His fa­ther, a pro­lific writer of love let­ters to his wife, laughed when his son read a let­ter from their wed­ding an­niver­sary in 1994. It be­gan: “Will you marry me? Oops! I for­got we did that, 49 years ago.” But when his son con­tin­ued read­ing, about how his fa­ther grew hap­pier each year spent with his wife, his fa­ther closed his eyes and cried. Jeb Bush later hugged his fa­ther and kissed him on the cheek.

Pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian Jon Meacham, who wrote a 2015 bi­og­ra­phy on the for­mer pres­i­dent, re­called dur­ing his eu­logy Bar­bara Bush’s de­vo­tion to her hus­band of 73 years, not­ing he was the “only boy she ever kissed.” Theirs was the long­est mar­riage of any pres­i­den­tial cou­ple.

Meacham said Bar­bara Bush was also known for bring­ing aware­ness to AIDS pa­tients and for her work pro­mot­ing lit­er­acy , which her hus­band sub­tly hon­ored Satur­day by wear­ing socks printed with blue, red and yel­low books.

“Bar­bara Bush was the first lady of the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion,” Meacham said, a nod to the gen­er­a­tion that fought in World War II.

The cou­ple’s fam­ily, in­clud­ing their five chil­dren, 17 grand­chil­dren and seven great-grand­chil­dren, played prom­i­nent roles in the ser­vice. Grand­daugh­ters of­fered read­ings, some of their voices shaky with emo­tion, while their eight grand­sons were pall­bear­ers.

The Bush fam­ily was seated in front of the church. Nearby, two other for­mer pres­i­dents — Bill Clin­ton and Barack Obama — along with their wives and cur­rent first lady Me­la­nia Trump were seated in the same pew.

A eu­logy was also given by Bar­bara Bush’s long­time friend, Su­san Baker, wife of for­mer Sec­re­tary of State James A. Baker III. She said Bush — the wife of the na­tion’s 41st pres­i­dent and mother of the 43rd — was “the se­cret sauce of this ex­tra­or­di­nary fam­ily.”

As the fu­neral ended, Ge­orge H.W. Bush was pushed in his wheelchair by an­other son, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, as they fol­lowed the cas­ket out of the church’s cav­ernous sanc­tu­ary, which had been adorned with sprays of yel­low gar­den roses, yel­low snap dragons and an­tique hy­drangeas.

They stopped along the way to shake hands as mourn­ers sang “Joy­ful, Joy­ful, We Adore Thee,” which Bar­bara Bush had re­quested as the fi­nal song. She died on Tues­day , with her hus­band by her side, at their home in Hous­ton. She was 92.

Bar­bara Bush was buried Satur­day af­ter­noon at her hus­band’s pres­i­den­tial li­brary at Texas A&M Univer­sity in Col­lege Sta­tion, about 100 miles (161 kilo­me­ters) north­west of Hous­ton. The burial site is in a gated plot sur­rounded by trees and near a creek where the cou­ple’s 3-yearold daugh­ter Robin is buried. She died of leukemia in 1953.

“It was a very brief but poignant and beau­ti­ful end­ing to a very mov­ing and in­cred­i­ble day. It would have been ex­actly what Bar­bara Bush wanted,” fam­ily spokesman Jim McGrath said.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple lined both sides of the street near the cam­pus as the fu­neral pro­ces­sion passed on a gray, cloudy day. Flags were flown at half-staff.

Other guests at the in­vi­ta­tion-only fu­neral in­cluded for­mer Rep. Gabby Gif­fords and her hus­band, re­tired as­tro­naut Mark Kelly, and pro­fes­sional golfer Phil Mick­el­son, along with Karl Rove and other for­mer White House staff mem­bers.

Me­la­nia Trump said in a state­ment it was an honor to give her re­spects to a “fear­less” first lady, adding: “To­day the world paid trib­ute to a woman of in­dis­putable char­ac­ter and grace.” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump didn’t at­tend to avoid se­cu­rity dis­rup­tions, ac­cord­ing to the White House, but he re­leased a state­ment say­ing his thoughts were with the fam­ily.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter and his wife, Ros­alynn, also didn’t at­tend be­cause he was trav­el­ing over­seas and she was re­cov­er­ing from surgery, ac­cord­ing to the Carter Cen­ter.

On Fri­day, more than 6,200 peo­ple vis­ited the Hous­ton church dur­ing a pub­lic view­ing. Many of the women wore the for­mer first lady’s fa­vorite color, blue, and her trade­mark pearl neck­laces.

Ge­orge H.W. Bush was so moved by how many peo­ple lined up Fri­day to pay their fi­nal re­spects to his wife that he de­cided to go . From his wheelchair, he spent about 15 min­utes shak­ing hands with peo­ple who had come.

AP PHOTO/EVAN VUCCI

For­mer Pres­i­dents Ge­orge H.W. Bush and Ge­orge W. Bush ac­com­pa­nied by their fam­ily mem­bers watch as pall­bear­ers carry the cas­ket of for­mer first lady Bar­bara Bush after a fu­neral ser­vice at St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church, Satur­day, April 21, 2018, in...

AP PHOTO/DAVID J. PHILLIP , POOL

Pall­bear­ers carry the cas­ket of for­mer first lady Bar­bara Bush after a fu­neral ser­vice for at St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church, Satur­day, April 21, 2018, in Hous­ton.

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