Funer­als over, train takes Bush cas­ket to fi­nal rest­ing place

The Modesto Bee - - News - BY MANNY FER­NAN­DEZ New York Times


In the same church where his wife of 73 years was eu­lo­gized just seven months ago, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush was re­mem­bered Thurs­day morn­ing for his hu­mil­ity, de­cency and de­vo­tion to his fam­ily and his coun­try.

Nearly 1,000 rel­a­tives, friends and dig­ni­taries from the worlds of pol­i­tics, sports, busi­ness and en­ter­tain­ment filled St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church, as they had in April for the fu­neral for Bar­bara Bush, who was 92 when she died. The fu­neral Thurs­day for Ge­orge Bush, who died last week at the age of 94, was one of the fi­nal events in what has be­come an ex­tra­or­di­nary mo­ment of na­tional mourn­ing for the 41st pres­i­dent.

Eight of his grand­sons led the mil­i­tary pall­bear­ers who car­ried Bush’s cof­fin into the church, and later his eldest grand­son – Ge­orge P. Bush, the Texas land com­mis­sioner – spoke in a touch­ing eu­logy of his grand­fa­ther’s horse­shoe games with the fam­ily and the Se­cret Ser­vice, and of how it had been “the honor of a life­time to share his name.”

Bush’s friends and rel­a­tives de­scribed a man who walked softly through the post­war pages of Amer­i­can his­tory, who was de­fined by ser­vice to oth­ers and who, one cold day in Hous­ton, gave a young coat­less usher at St. Martin’s the coat off his back.

“His wish for a kinder, gen­tler na­tion was not a cyn­i­cal po­lit­i­cal slo­gan: It came hon­est and un­guarded from his soul,” James Baker, Bush’s long­time friend of more than 60 years, said in a eu­logy.

Baker – who also served as sec­re­tary of state and White House chief of staff in the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and ran both of his pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns – fought back tears at the end of his re­marks, as he called Bush his role model and de­scribed their spir­ited de­bates, which usu­ally ended am­i­ca­bly and hu­mor­ously.

“But he had a very ef­fec­tive way of let­ting me know when the dis­cus­sion was over,” Baker said. “He would look at me and he would say, ‘Baker, if you’re so smart, why am I the pres­i­dent and you’re not?’”

Af­ter the fu­neral, Bush’s cof­fin trav­eled by train to Col­lege Sta­tion, Texas, where the for­mer pres­i­dent was to be buried on the grounds of the Ge­orge H.W. Bush Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum at Texas A&M Univer­sity – next to Bar­bara Bush and their daugh­ter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 when she was 3 years old.

On Wed­nes­day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sat at the front of Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral with all four liv­ing for­mer pres­i­dents at Bush’s state fu­neral, joined by thou­sands of for­eign lead­ers, law­mak­ers, diplo­mats and other of­fi­cials. In Hous­ton, it was a much smaller trib­ute, in large part for the Bush fam­ily and their friends and sup­port­ers in Texas, at the church Ge­orge and Bar­bara Bush had at­tended for more than 50 years. Trump did not at­tend, nor did any other for­mer pres­i­dents ex­cept for Bush’s son, Ge­orge W. Bush.

Amid the pageantry and prayers, and the an­thems sung by St. Martin’s choir, there was a dis­tinct coun­try twang to the cer­e­mony, an homage to the adopted state of the Con­necti­cut-raised for­mer pres­i­dent. The Oak Ridge Boys, a coun­try group that first sang for Bush in 1983 when he was vice pres­i­dent, sang “Amaz­ing Grace” a cap­pella. Reba McEn­tire sang “The Lord’s Prayer.” Nu­mer­ous Texas fig­ures filled the pews. There were ac­tors (Chuck Nor­ris), base­ball Hall of Famers (Nolan Ryan) and busi­ness lead­ers (Til­man Fer­titta). There were cur­rent and re­tired foot­ball, bas­ket­ball and base­ball stars, in­clud­ing J.J. Watt of the Hous­ton Tex­ans, Jeff Bag­well of the Hous­ton Astros and Dikembe Mu­tombo and Yao Ming of the Hous­ton Rock­ets.

Bush, a World War II avi­a­tor from the East Coast, came to Texas in the sum­mer of 1948 to make a name for him­self in the oil busi­ness, driv­ing to the West Texas town of Odessa in a red two-door Stude­baker. Seventy years af­ter that trip, Bush’s fu­neral train took him on one last jour­ney through the state, this time in a Union Pa­cific lo­co­mo­tive. The train, named Union Pa­cific 4141, trav­eled 70 miles through Mag­no­lia, Nava­sota and other small towns, led by a 4,300horse­power lo­co­mo­tive painted blue, gray and white to echo the col­ors of Air Force One. Mem­bers of the Bush fam­ily were on board.

Ar­ranged for a man who had been Amer­ica’s old­est liv­ing ex-pres­i­dent, Bush’s lo­co­mo­tive pro­ces­sion gave his long­planned me­mo­rial ser­vices a throw­back touch, evok­ing the pres­i­den­tial fu­neral trains for Abra­ham Lin­coln in 1865, Franklin Roo­sevelt in 1945 and Dwight Eisen­hower in 1969.


Fire­fight­ers on an over­pass stand on their truck and salute as the train car­ry­ing the body of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush trav­els through Texas on its way to Bush’s burial Thurs­day.

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