George HW Bush funeral: 1,000 mourners descend on Texas for final goodbye to president 'carved in hard granite of history'

Special train takes former president to his final resting place after service

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 06 December 2018 22:22 GMT
'The best father a son or daughter could have' George W. Bush breaks down in tears at end of funeral speech

The deeds that George HW Bush are carved into the "granite of history" former Secretary of State James Baker said as Texas said goodbye to one of its most famous residents.

A day after thousands of Americans and every living president mourned the death of Mr Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington, friends and family were given a chance to pay their final respects to the former president.

More than 1,000 mourners sang “America the Beautiful” at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church on Thursday, where the 41st commander in chief, who died last week in Texas at age 94, worshipped for over 50 years.

Mr Baker, a longtime friend, eulogised the former president as a peacemaker and “a truly beautiful human being” while describing his accomplishments in foreign policy.

“He was not considered a skilled speaker, but his deeds were quite eloquent and he demonstrated their eloquence by carving them into the hard granite of history,” Mr Baker said.

George P Bush, son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and one of the Mr Bush’s 17 grandchildren, reminisced about fly fishing and sharing Blue Bell Creameries ice cream, a well-known Texas brand, as a child with the man he called “Gampy”.

George W Bush, who followed his father to the White House after Bill Clinton, sat in the front pew near the flag-draped casket.

The funeral featured Mr Bush’s grandchildren, who served as honorary pallbearers, as well as his granddaughters, who read from the Bible.

Much like the Wednesday procession at the National Cathedral, eulogies read Thursday included light-hearted and sometimes comical memories of Mr Bush.

Mourners laughed as Mr Baker recalled how Mr Bush would let him know a conversation was over. “Baker, if you’re so smart, why am I president and you’re not?”

The former secretary of state reportedly visited the former president’s death bed last week.

Raised in an Episcopalian family in Massachusetts, Mr Bush fused his preppy New England background with the more free-wheeling traits of his adoptive state of Texas, where he moved as a young man to work in the oil industry.

This mix was reflected in some of his musical choices for his funeral: the St Martin’s Parish Choir sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” while country music star Reba McEntire chose “The Lord’s Prayer”.

The casket was later carried out of the church at the end of the service to the thunderous rhythm of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Following the service, Mr Bush’s remains were taken by car and train nearly 80 miles (130 kilometres) northwest to his presidential library in College Station, Texas.

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The train is a Union Pacific Corp locomotive, numbered 4141 and bearing the name “George Bush 41” on the side.

The former president will be buried there alongside the graves of his wife, Barbara Bush, who died in April, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at the age of three in 1953.

Mr Bush, who narrowly escaped death as a naval aviator who was shot down by Japanese forces over the Pacific Ocean in World War Two, will be buried with military honours, including a flyover by 21 aircraft from the US Navy.

Reuters contributed to this report

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