Na­tion bids good­bye to Bush

♦ 41st pres­i­dent re­mem­bered with high praise, can­nons, hu­mor

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL -

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.”

/ Con­trib­uted, AP-Carolyn Kaster

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.

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