His fi­nal rest

Texas bids Bush farewell with sports stars, fu­neral train

Journal Pioneer - - WORLD -

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.”

AP PHOTO

Fam­ily and friends at­tend a fu­neral ser­vice for former Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush at St. Mar­tin’s Epis­co­pal Church on Thurs­day in Hous­ton.

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