AUSTIN, Texas – Family members and close friends of former President George H.W. Bush attended an intimate funeral service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston on Thursday to bid farewell to “a gracious ... decent ... humble man.”
After the funeral service, the president’s remains were transported in a US-flag-draped casket to his final resting place at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, on board a train whose locomotive was dubbed “Bush4141,” recalling the 41st US president who served from 1989-1993.
The train’s route was selected to allow hundreds, if not thousands, of Texans to say goodbye to the president, many of them standing along the route with their hands over their hearts as the train traveled the 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Houston to College Station, where Bush was to be interred beside wife Barbara and their daughter Robin, who died in 1953 at age 3 of leukemia.
Former first lady Barbara Bush, “the love of his life,” died in April, a loss that – along with the advance of Parkinson’s – caused Bush’s health to worsen until his death last Friday at age 94.
During the funeral service at the Houston church, one of his grandchildren, George P. Bush, the current Texas land commissioner, offered an emotional eulogy in which he said that “George Herbert Walker Bush is the most gracious, most decent, most humble man that I will ever know,” adding “It’s the honor of a lifetime to share his name.”
He said that it was always his grandfather’s aim, as president, to create a better future for coming US generations.
Pastor Russell Levenson of St. Martin’s, which the Bushes regularly attended, could not contain his tears when he recalled George and Barbara’s 73-year marriage, and former Secretary of State James Baker – Bush’s best friend for decades – also choked up toward the end of his moving eulogy for “beyond any doubt, our nation’s very best one-term president.”
Former President George W. Bush, who served as the 43rd president from 2001-2009, also had eulogized his father at the funeral service held in Washington on Wednesday, calling him an “optimist” and saying “Through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you. A great and noble man. The best father, a son or daughter could have. And in our grief, let us smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again.”
Bush Sr. graduated from Yale, whereupon he and Barbara – as a young couple – moved to Texas to get involved in the oil business through his father’s contacts.
Bush was a fighter pilot in World War II and was shot down at sea. He began his political career as a Texas congressman, after which he served as UN ambassador, CIA director and vice president under Ronald Reagan from 1981-1989.
He won the 1988 presidential election, and during his single term in office he presided over the end of the Cold War, ordered US forces to invade Panama to depose strongman Manuel Noriega and waged and won the Gulf War to drive Iraqi forces under dictator Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.