Funerals over, train takes Bush casket to resting place
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
with full military honors at Graceland Cemetery West — 77 years to the day after he died.
“I remember the picture my grandmother had of Carl on her table there in the living room,” recalled Howard, who was born nine years after his uncle died. “She raised me from the time I was a baby until school age because my mother worked.”
In a time long before cellphones, the Internet and 24-hour cable news, Howard said that even after his grandparents learned of the attack, it took “quite a while” for them to find out their son had been killed.
“That was a very difficult time in their lives, not knowing what happened to him,” he said. “Fearing the worst, of course. ... I know that was something they never got over.”
The surprise attack by the Japanese killed more than 2,300 people and launched the U.S. into World War II. More than 400,000 Americans died during the war, and to this day more than 72,000 are still unaccounted for, according to the accounting agency.
From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the crew from the USS Oklahoma, interring them in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries, according to a release from the accounting agency. The remains of the casualties in the two cemeteries were disinterred in September 1947 and taken to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where examiners were able to confirm the identifications of only 35 men from the USS Oklahoma.
Those who could not be identified, including Dorr, were classified by a military board in October 1949 as non-recoverable, according to the release. Those remains were interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, where they remained until April 2015, when the Secretary of Defense ordered the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma.
Dorr’s remains were identified using DNA analysis, dental and anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence, according to the agency.
“You have to look at the sovereignty of God and the destiny of a family that we would be given the task of receiving his remains and paying tribute and honor to him,” Howard said. “When I think of what we ask our young people to do in defending our country, it just amazes me that we have such incredible patriots willing to do things that are just unthinkable and unbelievable to protect our freedom. I don’t want our citizens to forget about that. I don’t want that to slip away because someone is uninformed about what it costs to be an American citizen.”