‘THE GOODNESS THAT LED TO HIS GREAT­NESS’

Hous­ton fu­neral draws fam­ily, friends to fi­nal, fit­ting farewell

Houston Chronicle - - GEORGE H.W.BUSH: 1924-2018 - By Ja­cob Car­pen­ter, Emily Fox­hall and Brooke Lewis STAFF WRITER

A week of na­tional re­mem­brance for for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush cul­mi­nated Thurs­day in his adopted home state of Texas, where hun­dreds of fu­neral mourn­ers hon­ored the na­tion’s 41st leader as a hum­ble cor­ner­stone of Amer­i­can his­tory and fam­ily buried the de­voted pa­tri­arch along­side his beloved wife and daugh­ter.

In an 80-minute ser­vice Thurs­day morn­ing in­side the cav­ernous St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church where the Bushes wor­shipped more than 50 years, soar­ing pa­tri­otic hymns book-ended re­mem­brances of Bush as a “char­ter mem­ber of the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion,” whose up­stand­ing char­ac­ter guided his heroic mil­i­tary ser­vice, ac­com­plished po­lit­i­cal ca­reer and de­vo­tion to fam­ily.

Im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the ser­vice, Bush’s cas­ket was taken by train to Col­lege Sta­tion, where he was in­terred dur­ing a pri­vate af­ter­noon cer­e­mony on the grounds of his pres­i­den­tial li­brary.

The solemn pro­ceed­ings marked the fourth and fi­nal day of for­mal events hon­or­ing Bush, who died Nov. 30 at his Hous­ton home. He was 94 and had been in de­clin­ing health as he dealt with a form of Parkin­son’s dis­ease. His wife of 73 years, Bar­bara, died in April and was memo­ri­al­ized in the same church.

“He pos­sessed the clas­sic vir-

tues of our civ­i­liza­tion and of his faith, the same virtues that ex­press what is re­ally best about our coun­try,” James A. Baker III, Bush’s chief po­lit­i­cal com­pa­triot and friend of more than 60 years, said dur­ing a warm eu­logy at Thurs­day’s fu­neral. “His­tory has shown that few fam­i­lies ac­com­plished as much as his has. His legacy lives on with his chil­dren, who have con­tributed so very much to what makes our na­tion great.”

Best re­mem­bered for help­ing to or­ches­trate the end of the Cold War and head­ing a po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty with dig­nity, the one-term pres­i­dent was lauded Wed­nes­day with a state fu­neral at the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral. The five liv­ing Oval Of­fice oc­cu­pants at­tended the ser­vice, in­clud­ing el­dest son and for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, who de­liv­ered a mov­ing eu­logy.

Though he was born into the Amer­i­can East Coast elite, Bush built his fam­ily, for­tune and po­lit­i­cal ca­reer in Texas, where he first moved in 1948. An es­ti­mated 11,700 peo­ple bid farewell to him as he lay in re­pose at St. Martin’s from Wed­nes­day evening through early Thurs­day.

The care­fully or­ches­trated fu­neral, which be­gan at 10 a.m. Thurs­day, catered more to fam­ily and friends than the po­lit­i­cal class. His im­me­di­ate rel­a­tives, con­sid­ered tes­ta­ments to his char­ac­ter, filled sev­eral rows. Ge­orge W. Bush en­tered last to find the con­gre­ga­tion, which in­cluded a num­ber of no­table Hous­to­ni­ans, on its feet. They turned and placed hands over their hearts as the cas­ket was car­ried in, pre­ceded by an Amer­i­can flag.

The church’s choir, ac­com­pa­nied by a brass band, opened the ser­vice with “Amer­ica the Beau­ti­ful” and ended with “Bat­tle Hymn of the Repub­lic,” an­thems that the for­mer World War II U.S. Navy pi­lot loved. The church’s rec­tor, the Rev. Rus­sell J. Leven­son Jr., de­liv­ered an up­lift­ing homily in which he imag­ined the for­mer pres­i­dent re­ceiv­ing “a big old Texas-sized hug” in heaven from Bar­bara and their daugh­ter Robin, who died of leukemia at the age of 3 in 1953.

Bush’s el­dest grand­son, Texas Land Com­mis­sioner Ge­orge P. Bush, ten­derly re­called mo­ments with his “Gampy,” who cher­ished eat­ing Blue­bell ice cream, chal­leng­ing any­one in a game of horse­shoes and send­ing let­ters to rel­a­tives through their best and worst mo­ments.

“In our times to­gether, our big, won­der­ful and com­pet­i­tive fam­ily saw the goodness that led to his great­ness,” said Ge­orge P. Bush, the only mem­ber of the fam­ily po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty who cur­rently holds elected of­fice.

A PRES­I­DENT AND A FRIEND

Bush’s cas­ket, draped with an Amer­i­can flag, sat at the front of the church in the cen­ter aisle through­out the ser­vice, with 43rd Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush seated clos­est to it. The el­der Bush’s five liv­ing chil­dren and their spouses oc­cu­pied a front pew dur­ing the fu­neral, along with Baker. Eight grand­sons served as hon­orary pall­bear­ers and six grand­daugh­ters read Scrip­ture.

Muted light from an over­cast day shone through stained glass win­dows into the chilly sanc­tu­ary. Can­dles flick­ered on the al­tar, dec­o­rated with white flow­ers.

Baker, a fel­low Hous­to­nian who over­saw Bush’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns and served as his sec­re­tary of state, opened the trib­utes with a heart­felt homage to their decades­long friend­ship. He noted that Bush would have shunned the lauda­tory at­ten­tion lav­ished on him in re­cent days.

The 10-minute eu­logy, which be­gan briskly and con­fi­dently with an air of ad­mi­ra­tion, ended with Baker fight­ing back tears. In the hours af­ter Bush’s death, it fell to Baker to tell about Bush’s last liv­ing mo­ments, how he rubbed his close com­pan­ion’s feet, how the last words that Bush spoke were “I love you” to his el­dest son.

“We re­joice, Mr. Pres­i­dent, that you are safely tucked in now, and through the ages, with God’s lov­ing arms around you,” Baker said, con­clud­ing his re­marks. “Be­cause our glory, Ge­orge, was to have had you as our pres­i­dent, and, as such, a friend.”

Leven­son, who also de­liv­ered the homily at Bar­bara Bush’s fu­neral, high­lighted the unas­sum­ing na­ture he saw in Bush, re­count­ing how the fu­ture pres­i­dent taught Sun­day school, served cof­fee and cor­ralled four gig­gly boys on a wig­gly pew dur­ing their five decades in at­ten­dance.

“[W]e have lost more than a leader,” Leven­son said. “He, like his wife of over 70 years, Bar­bara, had that unique abil­ity to make you feel like he was your best friend, and you were his. And he

A FI­NAL RESTING PLACE

An es­ti­mated 1,200 peo­ple at­tended the ser­vice, many of them mem­bers of Hous­ton roy­alty. The guest list in­cluded Hous­ton ath­letes such as for­mer Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan, for­mer Rock­ets cen­ter Yao Ming and Tex­ans de­fen­sive line­man J.J. Watt, be­fit­ting Bush’s love of sports. Gallery Fur­ni­ture owner Jim McIng­vale, phi­lan­thropists Nancy and Rich Kin­der, and sports fran­chise own­ers Dray­ton McLane and Til­man Fer­titta also were listed as at­ten­dees.

Sev­eral of the state’s top po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in­clud­ing Gov. Greg Ab­bott, Hous­ton Mayor Sylvester Turner and out­go­ing Har­ris County Judge Ed Em­mett, sat across the aisle from the fam­ily in a front pew.

In a nod to Bush’s mu­si­cal tastes, coun­try leg­end Reba McEn­tire crooned “The Lord’s Prayer,” and the four-mem­ber Oak Ridge Boys de­liv­ered an a capella ver­sion of “Amaz­ing Grace.”

Bush’s long­time friends punc­tu­ated the cer­e­mony with mo­ments of hu­mor in keep­ing with the for­mer pres­i­dent’s sen­si­bil­i­ties. Oak Ridge Boys tenor Joe Bon­sall re­called that Bush “fan­cied him­self to be a good bass singer,” but dryly quipped, “He was not.” Baker re­cited one of Bush’s fa­vorite ver­bal jabs when they en­gaged in heated de­bates: “If you’re so smart, why am I pres­i­dent and you’re not?”

Fol­low­ing the fu­neral, which ended about 11:20 a.m., for­mer First Lady Laura Bush clutched Ge­orge W. Bush’s arm as he sto­ically watched his fa­ther’s cas­ket loaded in­side a hearse. The sounds of trum­pets and drums floated over the church.

Fam­ily mem­bers then trav­eled by mo­tor­cade to Union Pa­cific’s Auto Fa­cil­ity in Spring, where they boarded Lo­co­mo­tive 4141 with Bush’s cas­ket for trans­port to Col­lege Sta­tion amid a steady driz­zle.

Thou­sands of peo­ple lined the tracks for the 70-mile trip to Col­lege Sta­tion, car­ry­ing flags and chil­dren, rais­ing salutes and wav­ing to the Bush fam­ily in­side the train.

The cas­ket ar­rived just af­ter 4 p.m. As more than 2,000 stu­dents from the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets stood at at­ten­tion along the road near the li­brary, rel­a­tives were ush­ered to­ward Bush’s fi­nal resting place at the Ge­orge H.W. Bush Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum.

The ser­vice was pri­vate, but over­head, be­neath an over­cast sky, Navy pi­lots per­formed an un­prece­dented “miss­ing man” for­ma­tion with 21 air­craft. The jets flew in groups of four, with a sin­gle air­craft peel­ing off from the rest, sig­ni­fy­ing the loss of an avi­a­tor. Af­ter­ward, the sounds of a 21-gun salute re­ver­ber­ated across the grounds.

“He pos­sessed the clas­sic virtues of our civ­i­liza­tion and of his faith, the same virtues that ex­press what is re­ally best about our coun­try.”

James A. Baker III, Bush’s for­mer sec­re­tary of state and long­time friend

pulled it off with charm, and hu­mil­ity, and hu­mor, with few, if any, ri­vals.”

Mark Mul­li­gan / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Well-wish­ers look on as Lo­co­mo­tive 4141 passes through the Spring area on its way to Col­lege Sta­tion for for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s burial.

Mark Mul­li­gan / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s cas­ket is at­tended by an honor guard as it passes through Mag­no­lia, sur­rounded by hun­dreds of mourn­ers.

Karen War­ren / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Mem­bers of the Texas A&M Univer­sity Corps of Cadets salute as the U.S. Navy per­forms a 21-strike air­craft “miss­ing man” for­ma­tion to honor the for­mer pres­i­dent.

Brett Coomer / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s el­dest grand­son, Texas Land Com­mis­sioner Ge­orge P. Bush, lays a hand on the cas­ket of “Gampy” dur­ing the fu­neral ser­vice at St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church.

Brett Coomer / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

For­mer Sec­re­tary of State James A. Baker III said in his eu­logy that “our glory, Ge­orge, was to have had you as our pres­i­dent.”

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