His final rest
Texas bids Bush farewell with sports stars, funeral train
George H.W. Bush, who shaped history as America’s 41st president and patriarch of a family that occupied the White House for a dozen years, went to his final rest Thursday in Texas. More than 11,000 people paid their respects to Bush as his casket lay in repose all night at a Houston church where his family worshipped. Some visitors waited for hours to pay tribute to Bush, who was buried following a funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.
Thursday’s service began with “America the Beautiful” and a robust rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
It attracted local sports stars including Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and was featuring eulogies from Bush’s grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the only member of the famous family still holding elected office, and James Baker, his former secretary of state and a close friend for decades. Hymns being sung were chosen and loved by the former president, said the church’s pastor, Rev. Russell J. Levenson Jr. Performing were some of Bush’s favourite country music stars including the Oak Ridge Boys doing “Amazing Grace” and Reba McEntire offering “The Lord’s Prayer” as three days of official ceremonies in Washington gave way to more personal touches for the former president in Texas.
The nation’s capital bid him goodbye Wednesday in a Washington funeral service that offered high praise for the last of the presidents to have fought in the Second World War — and a hefty dose of humour about a man whose speaking delivery was once described as a cross between Mister Rogers and John Wayne.
Bush’s casket returned for the services in Houston, a ride on a special funeral train and eventual burial at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station. His final resting place is alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia at age three.
In the service at Washington National Cathedral, three former presidents and President Donald Trump looked on as George W. Bush eulogized his father as “the brightest of a thousand points of light.”
The cathedral service was a tribute to a president, a patriarch and a faded political era that prized military service and public responsibility. It was laced with indirect comparisons to Trump but was not consumed by them, as speakers focused on Bush’s public life and character — with plenty of cracks about his goofy side, too.
“He was a man of such great humility,” said Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming. Those who travel “the high road of humility in Washington, D.C.,” he added pointedly, “are not bothered by heavy traffic.”
Trump sat with his wife, a trio of ex-presidents and their wives, several of them sharp critics of his presidency and one of them, Hillary Clinton, his 2016 Democratic foe. Apart from courteous nods and some handshakes, there was little interaction between Trump and the others.
George W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost in 1953 and his mother, who died in April. He took comfort in knowing “Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again.”
It was a family that occupied the White House for a dozen years — the 41st president defeated after one term, the 43rd serving two. Jeb Bush stepped up to try to extend that run but fell short when Trump won the 2016 Republican primaries.
The elder Bush was “the last great-soldier statesman,” historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, “our shield” in dangerous times.
But he also said that Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin. Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply cracked, “Never know. Gotta ask.”
Family and friends attend a funeral service for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church on Thursday in Houston.