Thou­sands salute Bush fu­neral train 4141 on fi­nal Texas ride

The Star Democrat - - NATION - By NOMAAN MERCHANT, JUAN A. LOZANO and WILL WEISSERT Weissert re­ported from Austin, Texas. As­so­ci­ated Press writer David J. Phillip con­trib­uted to this re­port.

HOUS­TON (AP) — Thou­sands waved and cheered along the route as fu­neral train 4141 — for the 41st pres­i­dent — car­ried Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s re­mains to­ward their fi­nal rest­ing place in Texas on Thurs­day, his last jour­ney as a week of na­tional re­mem­brance took on a de­cid­edly per­sonal feel in an emo­tional home state farewell.

Some peo­ple laid coins along the tracks that wound through small town Texas so a 420,000-pound lo­co­mo­tive pulling the na­tion’s first fu­neral train in nearly half a cen­tury could crunch them into sou­venirs. Oth­ers snapped pic­tures or crowded for views so close that po­lice he­li­copters over­head had to warn them back.

The scenes rem­i­nis­cent of a by­gone era were a far cry from a se­ri­ous and more somber tone at an ear­lier fu­neral ser­vice at a Hous­ton church, where Bush’s for­mer sec­re­tary of state and con­fi­dant for decades, James Baker, ad­dressed him as “jefe,” Span­ish for “boss.” At times chok­ing back tears, Baker praised Bush as “a beau­ti­ful hu­man be­ing” who had “the courage of a war­rior. But when the time came for pru­dence, he main­tained the greater courage of a peace­maker.”

Baker also pro­vided a con­trast with to­day’s di­vi­sive po­lit­i­cal rhetoric, say­ing that Bush’s “wish for a kinder, gen­tler na­tion was not a cyn­i­cal po­lit­i­cal slo­gan. It came hon­est and un­guarded from his soul.”

“The world be­came a bet­ter place be­cause Ge­orge Bush oc­cu­pied the White House for four years,” said Baker.

Fol­low­ing the fu­neral, as the mo­tor­cade car­ry­ing Bush’s re­mains sped down a closed high­way from the church to the train sta­tion, con­struc­tion work­ers on all lev­els of an un­fin­ished build­ing paused to watch, while a man sit­ting on a fer­ris wheel near the aquar­ium in down­town Hous­ton waved.

Bush’s re­mains were later loaded onto a spe­cial train in a car fit­ted with clear sides so peo­ple could catch a glimpse of the cas­ket as it rum­bled by. The train trav­eled about 70 miles in two-plus hours — the first pres­i­den­tial fu­neral train jour­ney since Dwight D. Eisen­hower’s re­mains went from Wash­ing­ton to his na­tive Kansas 49 years ago — to the fam­ily plot on the pres­i­den­tial li­brary grounds at Texas A&M Univer­sity. Bush’s fi­nal rest­ing place is along­side his wife, Bar­bara, and Robin Bush, the daugh­ter they lost to leukemia at age 3.

In the town of Cy­press, 55-year-old Doug Allen left eight coins on the tracks be­fore the train passed — three quar­ters, three dimes and two pen­nies. The train left the coins flat­tened and slightly dis­col­ored.

“It’s some­thing we’ll al­ways keep,” Allen said.

Andy Gor­don, 38, took his 6-year-old daugh­ter, Ad­di­son, out of school so she and her 3-year-old sis­ter, Ashtyn, could see the train pass in Pine­hurst, Texas.

“Hope­fully, my chil­dren will re­mem­ber the sig­nif­i­cance and the mean­ing of to­day,” Gor­don said. Ad­di­son was car­ry­ing two small Amer­i­can flags in her hand.

At the fu­neral ser vice in St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church, where Bush and his fam­ily reg­u­larly wor­shipped in Hous­ton, the choir sang “This is My Countr y,” which was also sung at Bush’s pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion in 1989. Those gath­ered also heard a prayer stress­ing the im­por­tance of ser­vice and self­less­ness that the pres­i­dent him­self of­fered for the coun­try at the start of his term.

There were rous­ing ren­di­tions of the “Bat­tle Hymn of the Repub­lic” and “On­ward Chris­tian Soldiers,” and also some of Bush’s coun­try fa­vorites. The Oak Ridge Boys re­called per­form­ing for him for decades — some­times at the White House — and joked that Bush “fan­cied him­self to be a good bass singer. He was not.” They then sang “Amaz­ing Grace,” and Reba McEn­tire of­fered a mu­si­cal ver­sion of “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Thurs­day’s fla­vor was dis­tinctly Texas, un­like days of pre­vi­ous Wash­ing­ton cel­e­bra­tions that had more of a na­tional feel. In place of most fed­eral dig­ni­taries were top Hous­ton ath­letes in­clud­ing the NFL Tex­ans’ de­fen­sive end J.J. Watt — dis­play­ing Bush’s love for sports — and Chuck Nor­ris, who played TV’s “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

Grand­son Ge­orge P. Bush, the only mem­ber of the po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty still hold­ing elected of­fice, as Texas land com­mis­sioner, used a eu­logy to praise the man the younger gen­er­a­tions called “gampy.”

“He left a sim­ple, yet pro­found legacy to his chil­dren, to his grand­chil­dren and to his coun­try: ser­vice,” Ge­orge P. Bush said.

The church’s pas­tor, the Rev. Rus­sell Leven­son Jr., re­called the Bushes of­ten at­tend­ing ser­vices and of­fer­ing to give up their seats to oth­ers on days when the church was par­tic­u­larly crowded.

“He was ready for heaven and heaven was ready for him,” Leven­son said of Bush’s de­clin­ing in health in re­cent years. He also sug­gested that when the for­mer pres­i­dent died, he met his wife of 73 years in heaven and Bar­bara Bush play­fully de­manded “What took you so long?”

In­deed, the fu­neral oc­curred at the same church where ser­vices were held in April for Bar­bara Bush. That ser­vice is re­mem­bered for an emo­tional scene when the for­mer pres­i­dent gazed from his wheel­chair up at her cas­ket, then shook hands with well-wish­ers.

Wed­nes­day night, more than 11,000 peo­ple paid their re­spects as Bush lay in re­pose at the church all night.

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, at Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, there was high praise for the last of the pres­i­dents to have fought in World War II — and a hefty dose of hu­mor about a man whose speak­ing de­liv­ery was once de­scribed as a cross be­tween Mis­ter Rogers and John Wayne. Three other for­mer pres­i­dents and Don­ald Trump watched as Ge­orge W. Bush eu­lo­gized his fa­ther as “the bright­est of a thou­sand points of light.”

The cathe­dral ser vice was a trib­ute to the pa­tri­arch of one of the na­tion’s most pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies — they oc­cu­pied the White House for a dozen years — and to a faded po­lit­i­cal era that prized mil­i­tary ser­vice and pub­lic re­spon­si­bil­ity. Like Baker’s ad­dress Thurs­day, it in­cluded in­di­rect com­par­isons to 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.

“He was a man of such great hu­mil­ity,” said Alan Simp­son, for­mer Repub­li­can sen­a­tor from Wy­oming. Those who travel “the high road of hu­mil­ity in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.,” he added point­edly, “are not both­ered by heavy traf­fic.”

Trump sat Wed­nes­day with his wife, the trio of ex­pres­i­dents and their wives, sev­eral of them 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 took com­fort in know­ing “Dad is hug­ging Robin and hold­ing Mom’s hand again.”

Bush’s death makes Carter, also 94 but more than 100 days younger, the old­est liv­ing ex-pres­i­dent.

AP PHOTO/DAVID J. PHILLIP

The flag-draped cas­ket of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush is car­ried by a joint ser­vices mil­i­tary honor guard Thurs­day, Dec. 6, in Spring, Texas, as it is placed on a Union Pa­cific train.

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