FAREWELL TO A FIRST LADY: Barbara Bush remembered in private funeral service

- Family, friends and the nation said their final goodbyes to Barbara Bush on Saturday. The former first lady was remembered Saturday in a private funeral service at the church she has called home for over 60 years, and was then laid to rest on the grounds of her husband’s presidential library.

Mrs. Bush passed away Tuesday evening at the age of 92, with her family at her side-- including her husband of 73 years, former president George H.W. Bush, at her side holding her hand as he had reportedly been all day.

Saturday’s service was private, with about 1,500 invited guests in attendance. Among them: the entire Bush family, including her oldest son, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush; former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton; Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama; and first lady Melania Trump, who attended on behalf of President Donald Trump. 

The invitation-only service was also attended by former ambassadors, members of Congress, sports stars and Houston business owners.

Her son and former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, was among three people who eulogized Mrs. Bush during the service, while her grandchildren— who referred to her as “Ganny” — took part in readings and served as pallbearers.

Jeb Bush joked during his eulogy that his mother called her style of mothering him and his siblings "a benevolent dictatorship — but honestly it wasn't always benevolent." He emphasized how she believed in the power of laughter and that joy should be shared.

He choked up when saying his mother —known for her self-deprecating remarks about her wrinkles and gray hair — was "beautiful" until the very end. Bush said he felt privileged that he had a "front row" seat to the incredible love story that his parents shared.

Jeb Bush also recalled asking his mother about death on the last time he was with her-- and whether or not she was ready to go.

"Without missing a beat she said, 'Jeb, I believe in Jesus and he is my savior. I don't want to leave your dad, but I know I'll be in a beautiful place,'" he said in his eulogy.  
 


Photo credit: Getty Images

Also speaking about Mrs. Bush during the service were Susan Garrett Baker, wife of former Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff James Baker, and presidential historian Jon Meacham. Baker said her longtime friend was "the secret sauce of this extraordinary family."

In his eulogy, Meacham said Barbara Bush is the "first lady of the greatest generation," adding that the wife of the 41st president and the mother of the 43rd president was "candid and comforting, steadfast and straightforward, honest and loving."

Meacham recalled her work bringing awareness to AIDS patients and in promoting literacy. He also spoke of her quick wit that made her so popular.

Meacham, who wrote a 2015 biography of George H.W. Bush, said she was devoted to her husband of 73 years, saying former President George H.W. Bush was the "only boy she ever kissed."

Mrs. Bush’s funeral took place at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, where the Bushes have been members since the early 1950s. St. Martin’s Episcopal Church bills itself as the largest Episcopal church in the country, but when George H.W. and Barbara Bush started attending, they were a congregation of just a few hundred worshipers. 

George H.W. Bush was helped into the cavernous sanctuary with a wheelchair by George W. Bush. During the service, he laughed as Meacham and others recalled his wife's wicked sense of humor.

Seated near the front of the church, in the same pew, were two other former presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — along with their wives and current first lady Melania Trump.

Flags were flown at half-mast as the service began as the choir sang "My Country Tis of Thee." The church was adorned with sprays of yellow garden roses, yellow snap dragons, antique hydrangeas and other flowers.

As the funeral ended, George H.W. Bush was pushed in his wheelchair by his son George W. Bush as they followed the casket out of the church's cavernous sanctuary, which had been adorned with sprays of yellow garden roses, yellow snap dragons and antique hydrangeas.

They stopped along the way to shake hands, as mourners sang "Joyful, joyful, we adore thee," which Barbara Bush had requested as the final song. 

Other guests included former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, and professional golfer Phil Mickelson, along with Karl Rove, and other former White House staff. Many were seen embracing in the church before the service.

President Donald Trump did not attend to avoid security disruptions and "out of respect for the Bush family and friends attending the service," according to the White House. He released a statement Saturday saying his "thoughts and prayers" are "with the entire Bush family."

FINAL RESTING PLACE

Following the service at St. Martin’s, Mrs. Bush’s body was taken to the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M in College Station.  The motorcade passed through Houston’s Memorial Park along the way, so the public could pay their respects. The park is a place Barbara Bush and her husband often frequented


In this photo taken by Paul Morse Photography, the Waller Volunteer Fire Department and Prairie View Volunteer Fire Department pay tribute to Barbara Bush along the funeral procession route (courtesy of Paul Morse Photography).

A private burial service was held on the grounds of the presidential library. The Bushes’ daughter Pauline Robinson, known to the family as Robin, is already buried at the site. Robin died of leukemia in 1953, just before her fourth birthday.

PUBLIC SAYS GOODBYE

The public was invited to say their final farewells to the former first lady on Friday, and Mrs. Bush lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church from noon until midnight. Thousands of people waited their turn to say farewell and pay their respects to a woman fondly known as “everybody’s grandmother.” 

Many of the women who came to pay their respects wore Barbara Bush's favorite color, blue, and strands of pearls in tribute to Mrs. Bush's trademark piece of jewelry. A total of 6,231 people made their way through the line to say a final farewell to Mrs. Bush on Friday.


Photo credit: Getty Images

After seeing how many people turned out, George H.W. Bush spontaneously made an appearance inside the church, greeting mourners who stood in line to pay their respects. Later, his office released a photo of the former President sitting at the front of her casket, with his daughter, Doro, standing behind his wheelchair. 



Photo credit: Office of George H.W. Bush, via Getty Images


Photo credit: Office of George H.W. Bush, via Getty Images

On Thursday night, the city of Houston paid tribute to Mrs. Bush and her impact on the community in a celebration of life event outside city hall. 

The George Bush Presidential Library has set up a condolence book in the rotunda, alongside several displays of photos and mementos.  Members of the public have been streaming through to sign the book and pay their respects to the family.

In lieu of flowers, the Bush family has suggested that donations be made to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which works to boost literacy among parents and children.

LINK: www.barbarabushlegacy.org

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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