Nation bids goodbye to Bush
♦ 41st president remembered with high praise, cannons, humor
The nation bid goodbye to George H.W. Bush with high praise, cannon salutes and gentle humor last week, celebrating the life of the Texan who embraced a lifetime of service in Washington and was the last president to fight for the U.S. in wartime.
Three former presidents looked on at Washington National Cathedral as a fourth — George W. Bush — eulogized his dad as “the brightest of a thousand points of light.”
After three days of remembrance in the capital city that concluded on Dec. 5, the Air Force plane with Bush’s casket left for a final service in Houston and burial on Dec. 6 at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station.
His final resting place is alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daughter who died of leukemia at age 3.
The plane, which often serves as Air Force One, arrived at Ellington Field outside Houston in late afternoon last Wednesday.
The national funeral service at the cathedral was a tribute to a president, a patriarch and a faded political era that prized military service and public responsibility. It was laced with indirect comparisons to President Donald Trump but was not consumed by them, as speakers focused on Bush’s public life and character — with plenty of cracks about his goofy side, too.
Trump sat with his wife, a trio of ex-presidents and their wives, several of the group sharp critics of his presidency and one of them, Hillary Clinton, his 2016 Democratic foe. Apart from courteous nods and some handshakes, there was little interaction between Trump and the others.
George W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost in 1953 and his mother, who died in April. He said he took comfort in knowing “Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again.”
The family occupied the White House for a dozen years — the 41st president defeated after one term, the 43rd serving two. Jeb Bush stepped up to try to extend that run but fell short when Trump won the 2016 Republican primaries.
The elder Bush was “the last greatsoldier statesman,” historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, “our shield” in dangerous times.
But he took a lighter tone, too, noting that Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin. Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply quipped, “Never know. Gotta ask.”
Meacham recounted how comedian Dana Carvey once said the key to doing an impersonation of Bush was “Mr. Rogers trying to be John Wayne.”
None of that would be a surprise to Bush. Meacham had read his eulogy to him, said Bush spokesman Jim McGrath, and Bush responded to it with the crack: “That’s a lot about me, Jon.”
Above: Reader Marvin Hampton stopped by the Standard Journal with this photo of himself, his late wife Ellie and then President George H.W. Bush, who had stopped in the Avondale American Legion Post in Dekalb County to shake hands during the 1992 presidential campaign after a stop in Atlanta. Hampton said the Bush was only accompanied by secret service to stop in while players enjoyed a night of Bingo. Hampton was one of many to remember the former president this past week as celebrations of his life were held in Washington, D.C. and College Station, Texas after he died at the age of 94.The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a military honor guard.