US PRESIDENTS past and present gathered in Washington yesterday to pay their respects at a funeral service for George HW Bush.
The life and public service of the 41st president, who died last Friday aged 94, were marked with praise and humour at Washington National Cathedral, where Prince Charles was among the dignitaries.
Mr Bush’s son, the 43rd president George W Bush, said he told his father just before he died that he had been a ‘wonderful dad’ and he loved him.
He choked up at the end of his eulogy as he said his father’s ‘last words on Earth were, “I love you too”.’
Mr Bush Jr patted his father’s flag-draped coffin twice on his way back to his seat, as former first lady Laura Bush wiped her eyes with a tissue.
Before the service, Bill and Hillary Clinton chatted to Barack and Michelle Obama as they sat on the same row next to Jimmy Carter.
They were later joined by Donald Trump and first lady Melania. Mr Trump shook hands with the Obamas, but not with the Clintons who stared straight ahead.
Historian Jon Meacham told the service that Mr Bush — who fought in World War II — was ‘the last great soldier statesman’. And, in a moment that could be seen as a criticism of president Trump, said: ‘On his watch, a wall fell in Berlin.’
On a light note, he added that Mr Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin.
Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply cracked: ‘You never know.’ Also delivering eulogies were Mr Bush’s granddaughters Ashley Walker Bush and Lauren Bush Lauren. A military band played Hail To The Chief as Mr Bush’s coffin was carried down the US Capitol steps in a solemn procession, with members of the Bush family watching and a cannon salute.
The hearse was driven in a motorcade to the cathedral, slowing in front of the White House, with people lining the way. A colour guard stood at attention as the hearse arrived, and military pallbearers carried the coffin up the steps to the cathedral.
On Tuesday, soldiers, citizens in wheelchairs and long lines of others on foot wound through the Capitol Rotunda to view the coffin and honour a president whose legacy also included a law affirming the rights of the disabled. Mr Bush’s service dog Sully was taken to the viewing too. Former senator Bob Dole, who Mr Bush defeated in the 1988 Republican primary elections, also steadied himself out of his wheelchair and saluted his old friend and one-time rival.
The national funeral service ended three days of remembrance in Washington DC before Mr Bush’s remains were returned to Houston for burial today at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University.
His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukaemia in 1953, aged three.