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George HW Bush
Visitors pay their respects to the flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

George H.W. Bush, president and patriarch, is home for Texas burial

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Updated December 06, 2018 02:47 PM EST

By NOMAAN MERCHANT, JUAN A. LOZANO and WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — George H.W. Bush's family and friends praised his faith, humility and patience Thursday, saying the former president embodied courage and grace along with his unique brand of humor and kindness as days of national mourning in Washington took on a more personal feel during a final Texas farewell.

Addressing a funeral at Houston's St. Martin's Episcopal Church where the 41st president and his family regularly worshipped, Bush's former secretary of state and confidant for decades, James Baker, addressed him as "jefe," Spanish for "boss." He praised Bush as a "truly beautiful human being" who had the "courage of a warrior, but the greater courage of a peacemaker."

"The world became a better place because George Bush occupied the White House for four years," said Baker, who concluded his remarks fighting back tears.

George HW Bush
Former President George W. Bush embraces former Secretary of State James Baker, right, after he gave a eulogy during the funeral for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, Pool)

Following the services, a special funeral train was carrying Bush's remains through small towns to the family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station. His final resting place is alongside his wife and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia at age 3.

Thursday's flavor was distinctly Texas. In place of most Washington 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."

The St. Martin's Parish Choir performed "This is My Country," 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.

President Donald Trump wasn't in attendance Thursday, but Baker seemed to draw a gentle contrast by saying Bush respected vanquished adversaries. He said that Bush's wish for a "kinder, gentler nation" was genuine, not cynical.

George HW Bush
The Oak Ridge boys sing "Amazing Grace" during a funeral service for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

There were rousing renditions of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Onward Christian Soldiers," but also many of Bush's country favorites. The Oak Ridge Boys recalled performing for him for decades 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."

The previous evening, more than 11,000 people paid their respects as his casket that lay in repose in Houston all night.

George HW Bush
George P. Bush, grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, touches the flag-draped casket after giving a eulogy during a funeral for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

George P. Bush, the former president's grandson and the only member of the political dynasty still holding elected office, as Texas land commissioner, subsequently struck a more personal tone in his eulogy of the man he and 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, Rev. Russell Levenson, Jr., recalled the Bushes regularly attending services there 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 Bush died, he would meet his wife of 73 years, Barbara, in heaven and she would playfully demand, "What took you so long?"

President George H.W. Bush dies at 94

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

At Wednesday's Washington funeral service at the National Cathedral, 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 former presidents and Trump watched George W. Bush eulogized his father as "the brightest of a thousand points of light."

The cathedral service was a tribute to the patriarch of one of the nation's most-powerful political families — it 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 was laced with 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, a trio of ex-presidents 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.

Sully the service dog appears with the casket of former President George H.W. Bush

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.

By WILL WEISSERT, NOMAAN MERCHANT and CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — George H.W. Bush, who shaped history as 41st president and patriarch of a family that occupied the White House for a dozen years, is going to his final rest Thursday in Texas.

More than 11,000 people paid their respects to Bush as his casket lay in repose all night at a Houston church where his family worshipped.

Some visitors waited for hours to pay tribute to Bush, who will be buried Thursday following a funeral at St. Martin's Episcopal Church.

George HW Bush
A woman waits to pay her respects as former President George H.W. Bush lies in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, Pool)

The country said goodbye to him Wednesday in a national funeral service that offered high praise for the last of the presidents to have fought in World War II — and a hefty dose of humor about a man once described as a cross between Mister Rogers and John Wayne.

After three days of remembrance in Washington, a plane brought Bush's casket for his funeral's closing ceremonies in Houston and burial Thursday 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 they lost to leukemia at age 3.

In the service at Washington National Cathedral, three former presidents and President Donald Trump looked on as George W. Bush eulogized his father as "the brightest of a thousand points of light."

George HW Bush
Former President George W. Bush becomes emotional as he speaks at the state funeral for his father, former President George H.W. Bush, at the National Cathedral on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington. 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. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

The cathedral service 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 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 with his wife, a trio of ex-presidents 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."

George HW Bush
People line the streets to pay their respects as the hearse with the casket of former President George H.W. Bush passes by from the Capitol on the way to a state funeral at the National Cathedral on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

It was a family that 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 great-soldier statesman," historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, "our shield" in dangerous times.

But he also said that Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin. Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply cracked, "Never know. Gotta ask."

Meacham recounted how comedian Dana Carvey once said the key to doing an impersonation of Bush was "Mister Rogers trying to be John Wayne."

"That's a lot about me, Jon."
George H.W. Bush's reported quip to historian Jon Meacham, who read Bush his eulogy to him.

None of those words would be a surprise to Bush. Meacham 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."

The congregation at the cathedral, filled with foreign leaders and diplomats, Americans of high office and others touched by Bush's life, rose for the arrival of the casket, accompanied by clergy of faiths from around the world. In their row together, Trump and former presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton stood with their spouses and all placed their hands over their hearts.

Simpson regaled the congregation with stories from his years as Bush's friend in Washington. More seriously, he recalled that when he went through a rough patch in the political game, Bush conspicuously stood by him against the advice of aides. "You would have wanted him on your side," he said.

Simpson said Bush "loved a good joke — the richer the better. And he threw his head back and gave that great laugh, but he never, ever could remember a punchline. And I mean never."

George W. Bush turned the humor back on the acerbic ex-senator, saying of the late president: "He placed great value on a good joke, so he chose Simpson to speak."

Meacham praised Bush's call to volunteerism — his "1,000 points of light" — placing it alongside Abraham Lincoln's call to honor "the better angels of our nature" in the American rhetorical canon. Meacham called those lines "companion verses in America's national hymn."

George HW Bush Texas
Attendees to George H.W. Bush's funeral viewing at the Presidential Museum and Leadership Library in Odessa, Texas, look on as a military honor guard delivers Bush's casket to the Washington National Cathedral in Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP)

Trump mocked "1,000 points of light" last summer at a rally, saying "What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figured that one out? And it was put out by a Republican, wasn't it?"

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney praised Bush as a strong world leader who helped oversee the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped bring about the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, signed into law by his successor, Clinton.

With Trump, a bitter NAFTA critic, seated in the front row, Mulroney hailed the "largest and richest free trade area in the history of the world."

The three countries have agreed on a revised trade agreement pushed by Trump.

George HW Bush
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin's Episcopal Church, says a prayer over the casket of former President George H.W. Bush as he lies in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, Pool)

On Wednesday morning, a military band played "Hail to the Chief" as Bush's casket was carried down the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where he had lain in state. Family members looked on as servicemen fired off a cannon salute.

His hearse was then driven in a motorcade to the cathedral ceremony, slowing in front of the White House. Bush's route was lined with people much of the way, bundled in winter hats and taking photos.

Waiting for his arrival inside, Trump shook hands with Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, who greeted him by saying, "Good morning." Trump did not shake hands with Bill and Hillary Clinton, who looked straight ahead.

Bill Clinton and Mrs. Obama smiled and chatted as music played. Carter was seated silently next to Hillary Clinton in the cavernous cathedral.

Obama cracked up laughing at someone's quip. Vice President Mike Pence shook Carter's hand.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that the day marked "a celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life." Trump and his wife took their seats after the others, briefly greeting the Obamas seated next to them.

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

George HW Bush
The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a joint services military honor guard to Special Air Mission 41, on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Following the cathedral service, the hearse and a long motorcade drove to the National Mall to pass by the World War II Memorial, a nod to the late president's service as a World War II Navy pilot, then transferred his remains at Joint Base Andrews for the flight home with members of his family.

Trump ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.
___
Weissert reported from Austin, Texas. Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Ashraf Khalil and Darlene Superville in Washington and Juan A. Lozano and David J. Phillip contributed to this report.

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