HOUSTON (AP/RNN) - George H.W. Bush, who shaped history as 41st president and patriarch of a family that occupied the White House for a dozen years, was remembered in a final funeral service in Texas on Thursday and brought to his final resting place at a family plot on the grounds of his presidential library.
Funeral services for Bush were held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, where the Bush family has worshiped for decades.
His casket was then brought by train to College Station, TX, passing crowds of onlookers and well-wishers paying respects along a nearly three-hour journey.
It arrived in the late afternoon, and was brought by servicemen to a hearse as the Texas A&M band played the “Aggie War Hymn” and the Bush family looked on.
He was then brought to the family plot for a private burial, laid to rest alongside his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush, who died earlier this year, and their daughter Robin who died from leukemia as a 3-year-old.
As his casket was removed from the hearse at the library, a 21-jet flyover in “Missing Man” formation was performed in his honor.
At the funeral, the Rev. Russell Levenson, Jr. told mourners that Bush had a “resolute faith” and once asked what heaven would be like.
He told those gathered at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church that he imagined Bush was greeted in heaven by his wife “with her hands on her hips, saying ‘What took you so long?’”
Levenson said it was OK to cry because George H.W. Bush was never afraid to shed tears himself.
Bush’s longtime pastor ended the homily with the same prayer used at the president’s 1989 inauguration.
The grandchildren of the former president - including Barbara Pierce Bush, a daughter of George W. Bush, Noelle Lucila Bush, daughter of Jeb Bush and Elizabeth Dwen Andrews, whose mother is married to Neil Bush - gave readings from the Bible.
Two of George H.W. Bush’s granddaughters read from Corinthians: Nancy Ellis LeBlond Sosa and Georgia Grace Koch, who are the daughters of Dorothy Bush Koch.
His grandsons served as pallbearers.
James Baker, the president’s close friend, made some remarks and got emotional. And George P. Bush, a Texas state official and grandson of the 41st president, also paid tribute.
Musical guests included The Oak Ridge Boys and Reba McEntire.
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 to Houston for Thursday’s funeral.
After the funeral, a hearse carried Bush’s casket from St. Martin’s to a Union Pacific facility north of Houston near the international airport named for him. There, his casket was placed on the special train that brought him to his presidential library in College Station for burial.
In addition to George W. Bush and other family members, former basketball star Yao Ming and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt were among a handful of sports figures at the funeral.
Baseball Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Jeff Bagwell also arrived Thursday morning for the service.
Bush was a fan of his hometown teams. He joined his son, George W. Bush, on the field before Game 5 of the 2017 World Series in Houston.
Astros owner Drayton McLane and former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda are also in attendance.
In the service at Washington National Cathedral a day prior, 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.”
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.”
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."
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."
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.
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.
Bush's death makes Carter, also 94 but more than 100 days younger, the oldest living ex-president.
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.
Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Ashraf Khalil and Darlene Superville in Washington and Juan A. Lozano, David J. Phillip and Nomaan Merchant in Houston contributed to this report.