HOUSTON — President George H.W. Bush was laid to rest Thursday at his presidential library at Texas A&M University in College Station after nearly a week of services honoring his life.
After a state funeral in Washington, Bush was flown back to his adopted home in Houston on Wednesday. Flags had been at half-staff across the state since the nation’s 41st president died Friday at age 94 at his home in Houston’s Tanglewood neighborhood.
More than 11,000 people filed solemnly through nearby St. Martin’s Episcopal Church overnight to pay tribute to the former president and vice president. Many had visited the family’s church to mourn Bush’s wife, Barbara, who died in April at age 92.
On Thursday morning, Bush’s five children, 17 grandchildren and other family filled the pews for a final funeral service. They were joined by a host of Bush’s friends, an eclectic mix that included his former secretary of state and chief of staff, James A. Baker III; former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; and country singers Reba McEntire and the Oak Ridge Boys. The singers also performed during the service: McEntire “The Lord’s Prayer,” the Oak Ridge Boys “Amazing Grace.”
Baker was the first to speak after readings by Bush’s granddaughters, becoming emotional at times as he recalled his friend of 60 years by his nickname: “Jefe,” Spanish for chief.
“My hope is that in remembering the life of George Herbert Walker Bush and in honoring his accomplishments, we will see that we are really praising what is best about our nation. The nation he dearly loved and whose values he embodied,” Baker said, wiping tears as he stepped down from the altar.
Bush’s grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, recalled spending time with his “Gampy” playing horseshoes, watching him fly fish and relax at the family retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine. He said the late president wrote his grandchildren letters of encouragement along the way, and they followed him not only into public service, but into the military.
“He left a simple yet profound legacy to his children, his grandchildren and his country: service,” Bush said.
After the hourlong service, Bush’s body was taken _ as he requested before his death _ to a Union Pacific train that traveled about 70 miles northwest, passing through five small towns on its way to College Station. It was the first presidential funeral train since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s body was borne from Washington to his Kansas hometown 49 years ago.
Bush’s train, decorated to simulate Air Force One, had transparent sides so that mourners lining the tracks could see Bush’s flag-draped coffin. The train also carried members of his family to Texas A&M University. Bush’s body was then driven along George H.W. Bush Drive for a private family burial behind his presidential library, beside his wife and daughter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3.