George H.W. Bush laid to rest in Texas
Thousands salute funeral train 4141 on final ride
HOUSTON — Former President George H.W. Bush was laid to rest Thursday at his presidential library at Texas A&M University in College Station after nearly a week of services honoring his life.
After a state funeral in Washington, Bush was flown back to his adopted home in Houston on Wednesday. Flags had been at half-staff across the state since the nation’s 41st president died last Friday at age 94 at his home in Houston’s Tanglewood neighborhood.
More than 11,000 people filed solemnly through nearby St. Martin’s Episcopal Church overnight to pay tribute to the former president and vice president. Many had visited the family’s church to mourn Bush’s wife, Barbara, who died in April at age 92.
On Thursday morning, Bush’s five children, 17 grandchildren and other family filled the pews for a final funeral service. They were joined by a host of Bush’s friends, an eclectic mix that included his former secretary of state and chief of staff, James Baker; former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; and country singers Reba McEntire and the Oak Ridge Boys. The singers also performed during the service: McEntire “The Lord’s Prayer,” the Oak Ridge Boys “Amazing Grace.”
Baker was the first to speak after readings by Bush’s granddaughters, becoming emotional at times as he recalled his friend of 60 years by his nickname:
Spanish for chief. “My hope is that in remembering the life of George Herbert Walker Bush and in honoring his accomplishments, we will see that we are really praising what is best about our nation. The nation he dearly loved and whose values he embodied,” Baker said, wiping tears as he stepped down from the altar.
Bush’s grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, recalled spending time with his “Gampy” playing horseshoes, watching him fly fish and relax at the family retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine. He said the late president wrote his grandchildren letters of encouragement along the way, and they followed him not only into public service, but into the military.
“He left a simple yet profound legacy to his children, his grandchildren and his country: service,” Bush said.
After the hourlong service, Bush’s body was taken — as he requested before his death — to a Union Pacific train that traveled about 70 miles northwest, passing through five small towns on its way to College Station. It was the first presidential funeral train since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s body was borne from Washington to his Kansas hometown 49 years ago.
Bush’s train, decorated to simulate Air Force One, had transparent sides so that mourners lining the tracks could see Bush’s flagdraped coffin.
Flag waving-crowds lined the tracks.
As the train passed through the towns a group of elementary students could be seen holding a banner that read “THANK YOU,” firefighters saluted atop their truck on an overpass and a woman in a red hat held a sign that said “Rest in Peace George” with hearts.
Judy Hulsey said it was a “very moving experience” to be able to wave at the Bush family as they rode the funeral train to Texas A&M University.
Hulsey, of Brenham, was among those who went to Navasota to watch as the train passed through on its way to College Station. American flags were hung on buildings and a large sign read “President George H.W. Bush Thank You For A Lifetime Of Service.”
She said it was worth standing out in the cold and rain to be able to honor Bush and his family.
Kerry Dunford, of Rosenburg, said, “I think it’s great for the country to do this sort of thing so more people can be a part of showing their respects and giving a tribute to this man who truly deserves it.”
Some who lined up along the train route decided to make — or pick up — their own keepsakes to remember the day.
Some left coins on the tracks to be flattened as the train passed over and others picked up nearby rocks to take home.
Doug Allen, 55, of Cypress, left eight coins on the tracks before the train passed through Pinehurst. The train left his three quarters, three dimes and two pennies flattened and slightly discolored.
He says he only thought of the idea a few moments before the train passed and his wife and her friend found the coins in their bags.
“It’s something we’ll always keep,” Allen said.
After arriving at Texas A&M, Bush’s body was then driven along George H.W. Bush Drive for a private family burial behind his presidential library, beside his wife and daughter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3.
The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a joint services honor guard followed by family members Thursday in College Station, Texas.