Thousands line the route of George Bush’s final journey
US: His former secretary of state pays tribute to ‘a beautiful human being’
Thousands waved and cheered along the route as funeral train No 4141 – for the 41st president – carried George HW Bush’s remains to their final resting place in Texas.
It was the former president’s last journey as a week of national remembrance took on a decidedly personal feel in an emotional home state farewell.
Some people laid coins along the tracks that wound through small town Texas so a 420,000-pound locomotive pulling the nation’s first funeral train in nearly half a century could crunch them into souvenirs.
“He maintained the greater courage of a peacemaker”
Others snapped pictures or crowded for views so close that police helicopters overhead had to warn them back. Students hoisted a banner simply reading “THANK YOU”.
The scenes reminiscent of a bygone era followed the more sombre tone of a funeral service at a Houston church, where Mr Bush’s former secretary of state and confidant for decades, James Baker, addressed him as “jefe”, Spanish for “boss”.
At times choking back tears, Mr Baker praised Mr Bush as “a beautiful human being” who had “the courage of a warrior. But when the time came for prudence, he maintained the greater courage of a peacemaker.”
Mr Baker also offered Mr Bush as a contrast to today’s divisive, sometimes vitriolic politics, saying that his “wish for a kinder, gentler nation was not a cynical political slogan. It came honest and unguarded from his soul”.
“The world became a better place because George Bush occupied the White House for four years,” said Mr Baker.
As the post-funeral motorcade carrying Mr Bush’s remains later sped down a closed road from the church to the train station, construction workers on an unfinished building paused to watch.
Mr Bush’s body was later loaded on to a special train fitted with clear sides so people could catch a glimpse of the casket as it rumbled by.
The train travelled about 70 miles – the first presidential funeral train journey since Dwight D Eisenhower’s remains went from Washington to his native Kansas 49 years ago – to the family plot on the grounds of Mr Bush’s presidential library at Texas A&M University.
Mr Bush’s final resting place is alongside his wife, Barbara, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukaemia aged three.
In the town of Pinehurst, 55-year-old Doug Allen left eight coins on the tracks before the train passed – three quarters, three dimes and two pennies.
“It’s something we’ll always keep,” Mr Allen said.
POIGNANT: The flag-draped casket of former President George HW Bush passes through the city of Magnolia, Texas, yesterday