Fi­nal home­com­ing for pres­i­dent

Bush laid to rest on grounds of his li­brary in Texas


Hous­ton — More than a thou­sand friends and aides said farewell to Ge­orge H.W. Bush at a Hous­ton fu­neral Thurs­day, punc­tu­ated by tears, hugs and yet more pointed ref­er­ences to the re­straint and kind­ness he pro­jected in a time when such virtues were cel­e­brated in pres­i­dents.

The 41st pres­i­dent was buried hours later on the grounds of his pres­i­den­tial li­brary at Texas A&M Univer­sity, after the me­mo­rial ser­vice at St. Mar­tin’s Epis­co­pal Church, where he and his wife of 73 years had long wor­shipped.

“He pos­sessed the clas­sic virtues of our civ­i­liza­tion and of his faith,” James Baker, his sec­re­tary of state dur­ing an era of trans­for­ma­tion in the world or­der, said in his eu­logy. “Ge­orge Bush was tem­per­ate in thought, in word and in deed. He con­sid­ered his choices and then he chose wisely.”

“His in­cred­i­ble ser­vice to our na­tion and the world are al­ready etched into the mar­bles of time,” he con­tin­ued, re­count­ing Bush’s stints as an 18-year-old Navy pi­lot in World War II, and later as a con­gress­man, am­bas­sador to China and the United Na­tions, di­rec­tor of the CIA, then vice pres­i­dent and pres­i­dent.

“He had the courage of a war­rior,” Baker said. “But when the time came for pru­dence, he al­ways main­tained the greater courage of the peace-

“He had the courage of a war­rior. But when the time came for pru­dence, he al­ways main­tained the greater courage of the peace­maker.” JAMES BAKER, FORMER SEC­RE­TARY OF STATE


Bush died at his home in Hous­ton on Nov. 30 at age 94 after years of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion from a form of Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

More than 11,000 peo­ple waited for hours overnight to pay re­spects to Bush as he lay in re­pose at the fam­ily’s church. Thou­sands more had lined up as he lay in state in the Capi­tol ro­tunda be­fore a state fu­neral at the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral on Wed­nes­day that brought to­gether all liv­ing pres­i­dents.

Many of those eu­lo­gies in­cluded im­plicit — and some­times ex­plicit — re­bukes of the cur­rent chief ex­ec­u­tive, Don­ald Trump, who has shunned ad­vice from pre­de­ces­sors and kept his dis­tance even as they shared a pew.

Such fric­tion and drama were ab­sent in Hous­ton, where Ge­orge W. Bush was the only liv­ing pres­i­dent.

Fi­nal train ride

After the ser­vice, a spe­cial Union Pa­cific train painted to re­sem­ble Air Force One car­ried his cas­ket and mem­bers of his fam­ily 70 miles, past thou­sands of on­look­ers, to his fi­nal rest­ing place at the Bush pres­i­den­tial li­brary at Texas A&M Univer­sity.

A mil­i­tary honor guard lifted the cas­ket from the hearse upon ar­rival in Col­lege Sta­tion. With in­ter­mit­tent rain hit­ting Bush’s adopted and beloved home state, the flag drap­ing the cas­ket was cov­ered in plas­tic.

A mil­i­tary band played ruf­fles and flour­ishes and “Hail to the Chief” one fi­nal time for the former com­man­der in chief, then the na­tional an­them. Navy fighter jets roared over­head, 21 of them, the fi­nal pass in a miss­ing man for­ma­tion — a high honor for a lost com­rade.

His burial plot was be­side his wife, Bar­bara, who died in April, and their daugh­ter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3.

The honor guard car­ried the cas­ket, the fam­ily fol­low­ing, along a wind­ing path be­side a lake be­fore a pri­vate burial. A 21-gun salute, a bu­gler’s mourn­ful taps in the dis­tance, then a fi­nal three-shot vol­ley marked the end of sev­eral days of pomp and pre­ci­sion and pageantry.

Army Maj. Gen. Michael L. Howard pre­sented the flag, folded into a pre­cise tri­an­gle, to Dorothy Bush Koch, daugh­ter and sis­ter of pres­i­dents.

Hours ear­lier at the Hous­ton church, Gov. Greg Ab­bott and Hous­ton Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Repub­li­can and a Demo­crat, re­spec­tively, sat in the front row across the aisle from the Bush fam­ily.

Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, the former Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor, and Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher for the Texas Rangers and Hous­ton Astros, were on hand, as was former Texas Lt. Gov. David De­whurst.

The state fu­neral Wed­nes­day in­cluded world lead­ers, the cur­rent and former pres­i­dents and vice pres­i­dents, and lu­mi­nar­ies from the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. But there are only so many seats even in that grand cathe­dral, and the Bushes had a fa­mously enor­mous Christ­mas card list that in­cluded friends, busi­ness as­so­ciates, and a vast and ever-ex­pand­ing po­lit­i­cal net­work.

In­vi­ta­tions to the Hous­ton ser­vice went to any­one west of the Mis­sis­sippi, said Jim Mc­Grath, an aide to the late pres­i­dent.

The large Bush fam­ily be­gan fil­ing in shortly be­fore 10 a.m. Ge­orge W. Bush took his seat on the cen­ter aisle in the front after greet­ing friends on the way, one with a hug.

Hon­orary pall­bear­ers, in­clud­ing Ge­orge P. Bush and other grand­sons, led a pro­ces­sion that in­cluded can­dles, a cross, and flags of Texas and the United States. A mil­i­tary honor guard car­ried the flag­draped cas­ket and placed it on the bier, a few feet from Ge­orge W. Bush.

‘Honor of a life­time’

Ge­orge P. Bush also de­liv­ered a eu­logy Thurs­day, re­call­ing his “Gampy” as “the most gra­cious, most de­cent, most hum­ble man that I will ever know. … It’s the honor of a life­time to share his name.”

He re­called a let­ter Bush wrote to his grand­chil­dren lament­ing that he hadn’t got­ten to spend as much time one sum­mer with them as he would have liked.

“‘I think of you all an aw­ful lot. I just won­der how each of you is do­ing in school and in life,’” Bush said his grand­fa­ther wrote. “He of­ten spoke about the time­less creed of duty and coun­try. This wasn’t just some­thing he talked about. This was some­thing he lived.”

One of the former pres­i­dent’s fa­vorite coun­try acts, the Oak Ridge Boys, per­formed “Amaz­ing Grace.”

The group first sang for him when he was vice pres­i­dent. “He said, ‘Fel­las’ — he al­ways called us fel­las — ‘would you sing me a few songs?’” one of the Boys told the con­gre­ga­tion. “He fan­cied him­self to be a good bass singer. He was not.”

Reba McEn­tire sang “The Lord’s Prayer.”

At both fu­ner­als, Bush was re­mem­bered for his in­tegrity, de­vo­tion to pub­lic ser­vice, and ci­vil­ity.

And de­spite los­ing re-elec­tion with the low­est share of votes of any pres­i­dent seek­ing a sec­ond term, in a three-way con­test with Bill Clin­ton and Dal­las bil­lion­aire Ross Perot, he also was re­called as a com­man­der in chief who guided the na­tion through an es­pe­cially tur­bu­lent time.

The Soviet Union col­lapsed. Ger­many re­uni­fied, a devel­op­ment ini­tially feared by France and oth­ers.

“Ge­orge Bush could have claimed vic­tory for the West, for Amer­ica and frankly for him­self,” Baker said Thurs­day. “But he un­der­stood that hu­mil­ity for, and not hu­mil­i­a­tion of, an ad­ver­sary” would yield bet­ter re­sults.

And so Ger­many uni­fied as a NATO mem­ber, and “thus the Cold War ended not with a bang but with the sound of a hal­yard ... as the flag of the Soviet Union was low­ered for the very last time.”

Bush cob­bled to­gether a coali­tion to drive Iraq out of Kuwait after Sad­dam Hus­sein’s in­va­sion, and then to end the con­flict when that mis­sion was ac­com­plished. He ended wars in Cen­tral Amer­ica, signed two arms re­duc­tion treaties, and brought Is­rael and its neigh­bors to­gether to talk peace.

Bush wel­comed his hon­est in­put, Baker re­called, even when he dis­agreed with it. “But he had a very ef­fec­tive way of let­ting me know when the dis­cus­sion was over. He’d say, ‘Baker if you’re so smart, why am I the pres­i­dent and you’re not?’ He was a leader, and he knew it.”

Baker kept his com­po­sure un­til the end of his 10-minute eu­logy, and he cried af­ter­ward while hug­ging Ge­orge W. Bush.

Baker and the Bushes’ pas­tor, Rev. Dr. Rus­sell J. Leven­son Jr., rec­tor of St. Mar­tin’s church, were with both Ge­orge and Bar­bara Bush when they died.

Leven­son’s voice, too, cracked with emo­tion dur­ing his homily.

“Ge­orge Bush was never afraid to shed tears and so to­day I bid you to fol­low his ex­am­ple,” he’d said. “Give thanks that his life brushed up against yours.”


The salut­ing bat­tery crew at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy fires a 21-gun salute Thurs­day in honor of former Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush. The salute, 21-gun in honor of a head of state, co­in­cided with sim­i­lar salutes at mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions across the na­tion. It also co­in­cided with Bush’s fu­neral in Hous­ton, Texas.

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