Mourners began lining up outside a Texas church Wednesday almost 10 hours before the visitation was scheduled to begin for former President George H.W. Bush who died Friday. One woman said she got some advice on a happy marriage from Bush. (Nov. 5)
HOUSTON — A week of national mourning for “41” concludes Thursday with an invitation-only funeral service at former President George H.W. Bush’s beloved local church and a private burial service at his presidential library 100 miles northwest of here in College Station.
Eulogies at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church will be delivered by his son, former President George W. Bush, his best friend and former secretary of state, James Baker III, and his grandson and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
Then the casket will be loaded onto the Union Pacific Railroad’s Presidential Train Car, traveling through Texas cities such as Spring, Magnolia and Navasota to College Station and the campus of Texas A&M University. His final resting place will be on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum alongside his wife and their daughter, Robin, who died from leukemia short of her 4th birthday.
St. Martin’s, founded in 1952, is now the largest Episcopal church in North America with some 9,000 members. It was also the site of Barbara Bush’s funeral in April.
More than 10,000 mourners paid their respects to Bush overnight after his body arrived at the church Wednesday from a service at Washington National Cathedral that drew President Donald Trump and all the living former presidents – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
And mourners, some dressed in their Sunday finest and some in the clothing of blue-collar workers, streamed in by the hundreds to pay final respects to a fellow Houstonian and one-time leader of the free world who died Friday at age 94.
Larry and Nancy Buffington joined the seemingly endless line of mourners because, they said, Bush exemplified the image of a national leader.
“This makes me homesick for the values and integrity that belongs in the White House,” said Larry Buffington, who was in line outside church in Houston for more than four hours.
Nancy Buffington, who met the 41st president several years ago after a commencement exercise at Johns Hopkins University, said she was struck by his down-to-earth accessibility.
“He was so personable,” she said. And larger, physically, than she expected. “There was a real charisma about him.”
Frank Cano Sr., a Korean War veteran, came with his grown children to say goodbye to a man he only knew from television.
“He was our president, said Cano’s son, Frank Jr. “He was only president for four years, but look what he accomplished: The Berlin Wall came down. He built a coalition for Desert Storm. And our dad wanted to be here, because he was a fellow veteran.”
Barry McBee, a White House fellow under Bush in 1989 and 1990, drove from Austin to Houston to join the mourners.
“It was an honor to work for him,” said McBee, an assistant chancellor at the University of Texas System. “He was a man of dignity and grace.”
Bush’s body entered St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston at 6:30 p.m. to the sounds of the U.S. Air Force Band of the West. A parade of emergency vehicles with red and blue lights flashing led the body from Ellington Field to the sprawling red brick church.
The church towers overs Houston’s upscale Tanglewood neighborhood west of downtown. A message on the website of the 66-year-old church reads: “President George H.W. Bush and the late Mrs. Barbara Pierce Bush worshiped at St. Martin’s for more than 50 years, and now it is our turn to show our respect and support as our congregation, as well as our nation, grieve this loss.”
Contributing: John Bacon from Mclean, Virginia.
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