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"Heaven was ready for him." Texans say goodbye to George H.W. Bush

The 41st president was remembered at a funeral service in Houston on Thursday and was buried at his presidential library in College Station.

A military honor guard walks the casket into St. Martin's Episcopal Church during the funeral service for former President G…

HOUSTON — George Herbert Walker Bush rolled down the long, gray-tiled floor of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in his wheelchair just eight months ago to mourn the death of his wife Barbara.

But Thursday morning, it was the former president being carried — slowly and methodically — down the church’s center aisle surrounded by nearly 1,000 friends and family. Guests packed shoulder to shoulder in the pews of the white-walled, high-arched church and wiped tears from their eyes as Bush’s casket advanced toward the candle-lit altar.

Reverend Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr. encouraged the tears to flow freely as he began his homily and said the former president was never afraid to hold back tears anyway.

“He was ready for heaven, and heaven was ready for him,” said Levenson. “My guess is that on Nov. 30, when the president arrived in heaven, that Barbara was standing there with her hands on her hips saying, ‘What took you so long?’ But then a big old Texas-sized hug from his wife and daughter with the words 'We adore you.'”

George P. Bush gives a eulogy during the funeral for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in H…

The former president’s grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III also delivered tributes.

George P. Bush called his grandfather the “most gracious, most decent, most humble man” he had known and underscored the 41st president’s “simple” legacy of service and dedication to his family.

“We all grew up in awe of my grandfather, a larger-than-life figure,” Bush said. “He’d be the first to host intense horseshoe matchups among family, Secret Service or any willing head of state while encouraging trash talk like ‘power outage’ if your horseshoe was short or ‘Woodrow Wilson’ if you’re long and your shoe hit the wooden back stop.”

Former President George W. Bush embraces former Secretary of State James Baker after he gave a eulogy during the funeral for…

After finishing his tribute to his grandfather, the man he lovingly called “Gampy,” Bush gently patted his grandfather's casket, draped in the American flag, before sinking back into his seat.

Despite fighting back tears, Baker recalled some light-hearted moments working with Bush, whom he called “a truly beautiful human being.”

“He had a very effective way of letting me know when the discussion was over,” said Baker to a loud chorus of laughter breaking up the otherwise solemn ceremony. “He said, 'Baker, if you’re so smart, why am I president and you’re not?'”

Ticking off Bush's litany of accomplishments — not including, he joked, public speaking — the former president's friend said Bush's determination to do the right thing shone through most brightly.

“He possessed the classic virtues of our civilization,” Baker said.

Reba McEntire sings "The Lord's Prayer" during a funeral service for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin’s Episc…

Melancholy pipe organ tones serenaded funeral guests as they shuffled into their pews and kissed one another on the cheeks. But that quickly gave way to a thunderous rendition of “America the Beautiful” as the ceremony kicked off, which again gave way to a tender, choir-led version of “This is My Country,” mirroring the rapidly shifting tone of ceremony, sometimes loud and powerful, and at other times mellow.

The funeral also featured an a capella rendition of “Amazing Grace” by The Oak Ridge Boys, a country and gospel quartet, who first sang for the former president in October 1983, and a rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” by country music singer Reba McEntire.

In attendance at the funeral were the former president's granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager, the former president's children, George W., Jeb, Neil, Doro and Marvin, along with a number of other Bushes.

Members of the Bush family, including former U.S. President George W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush, Jeb Bush and Neil …

The former president’s casket then traveled by motorcade to a Union Pacific Railroad facility in Spring, where it was loaded onto a special train. Locomotive 4141 was coated in shades of blue to match those covering Air Force One. It headed to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University in College Station. He will be buried there next to his wife Barbara, who died in April, and his daughter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3.

The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a joint services military honor guard, in Spring o…
People pay their respects as the train carrying the casket of former President George H.W. Bush passes by along the route fr…

The Texas giant, known for his kindness and ability to compromise, found a home at Texas A&M in the 1990s when he selected the school to house his library and the Bush School of Government and Public Service.

A regular on campus, Bush would often fish in the lake behind the school, play horseshoes with students and visitors, work out in the recreational center and drop in on classes, according to the school’s website.

Supporters of the former president cheered as the special train passed through Magnolia, Navasota and other towns on its 70-mile journey from Spring to College Station.

A banner thanking former President George H.W. Bush hung near downtown Navasota. The funeral train carrying the president's …
Barbara Ray of Willis drove to Navasota to view the train that will pass with the remains of former President George H.W. Bu…
Brenda Moore was in Navasota to honor the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. Navasota is one of the towns through…
Beth Amick of Crockett was in Navasota to honor the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. "The Bush family is a symb…
Hayley Enoch, Zoey Johnson and Layla Johnson practiced their presidential salutes on Thursday. The trio arrived early in the…
Sonya Lakes awaited the arrival of former President Bush's funeral train through Navasota on Thursday. "He was a great presi…
Ricky Marie and Robert Robinson awaited the arrival of former President Bush's funeral train in Navasota. "We're out here to…
James Lawrence of Lufkin drove to Navasota to witness former President George H.W. Bush's funeral train pass through town. "…
Crowds gather in Navasota to pay their respects to former President George H.W. Bush. Navasota is one the towns through whic…
Mourners in Navasota gathered to salute the train that carried the remains of former President George H.W. Bush as the funer…
Spectators cheered and waved flags as the Union Pacific funeral train carrying the casket of former President George H.W. pa…
The Bush family looked on as a joint military services honor guard carried the casket for former President George H.W. Bush …
The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush was carried by a joint services military honor guard followed by…

Disclosure: Texas A&M University and the University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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