(CBS News) — A final service for former President George H.W. Bush is being held today in Houston, the city Mr. Bush adopted as his hometown, before he is laid to rest at his presidential library at Texas A&M University, in College Station, Texas. The Houston funeral service will take place at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.
On Wednesday, thousands gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. — including the present and past presidents, dignitaries, family and friends — to honor the life and legacy of Mr. Bush.
Former President George W. Bush eulogized his father in a moving speech, as did other longtime friends of the Bush family.
“He looked for the good in each person, and he usually found it,” the younger Bush said of his father.
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Reba McEntire sings the “Lord’s Prayer”
Singer Reba McEntire, who had a friendship with the late president, performed “The Lord’s Prayer.”
“He was ready for Heaven, and Heaven was ready for him,” Bush family reverend says
Bush family Reverend Russell Levenson recalled what it was like to be the Bush family pastor, recalling how Mr. Bush and Barbara Bush weren’t territorial about their favorite space in the pews. When a tired mother, or a handicapped parent needed it, they were happy to give it up.
The late president, Lenvenson recalled, was ready for the next journey.
“He was ready for Heaven, and Heaven was ready for him,” Levenson said.
George P. Bush remembers his “Gampy”
Mr. Bush’s grandson, George P. Bush, remembered the man he knew as “Gampy” growing up. He remembered how the former president would offer the grandkids an award for whoever fell asleep first, and how the grandchildren would cuddle up with their grandparents as they read the paper in the morning.
But the late president meant so much to so many more than just his family, George P. Bush recognized.
“Undoubtably, when the last words are written on him, they will certainly include this: the fulfillment of a complete life cannot be achieved without service to others,” George P. Bush said of his grandfather.
James Baker eulogizes Bush 41
Former White House chief of staff and lifelong friend of the late president James Baker began delivering the eulogy.
Baker described his friend’s domestic and international accomplishments — how he worked with other nations well. Baker emphasized Bush’s courage, his kindness, and his humility.
He had the “courage of a warrior” but maintained the “greater courage of a peacemaker,” Baker said.
Baker choked up towards the end of his speech, as he said his glory and the glory of others was to have Mr. Bush as a president, and as a friend.
Bush granddaughters read scripture
The late president’s granddaughters read scripture from the front of the podium.
Casket carried into church
Military members slowly carried the casket of the former president to the front of the church.
As has been the case the entire week, the casket was taken slowly, methodically, and set down carefully, as silence filled the room.
Service begins with “America the Beautiful”
The first song played at the late president’s memorial service was a fitting one — “America the Beautiful.”
Service to begin momentarily, with guests seated
The hundreds of family members and friends of former President George H.W. Bush are seated, waiting for the funeral to begin.
Thursday marks the final day of proceedings for the former president.
Final funeral at St. Martin’s
About 1,200 mourners are expected at today’s service. Bush’s grandchildren are serving as honorary pallbearers and as readers in the service.
Services for the 41st president are set for Thursday morning at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, where the Bush family worshipped. The church’s doors opened two hours early for guests, who arrived on buses with marquees reading “George H.W. Bush.”
After the funeral, a hearse will carry 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 will be placed on a special train that will travel to his presidential library in College Station, where he will be buried.
Nearly a thousand invited guests invited to funeral
Nearly a thousand guests were invited to the former president’s final funeral, including Houston sports figures, country singers and actors, along with a former California governor, according to a release provided by Bush spokesman Jim McGrath:
- Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Actress Teri Hatcher
- Actor Chuck Norris
- Astronaut Walter Cunningham
- Baseball Hall of Famer Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros
- Baseball Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros
- Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan of the Houston Astros
- Baseball Hall of Famer Tommy LaSorda of the Los Angeles Dodgers
- Baseball player Bob Aspromonte of the Houston Colt .45s and Astros
- Baseball player Ken Aspromonte of the Houston Astros
- Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
- Philanthropists Nancy and Rich Kinder
- Businessman and former Houston Astros Owner Drayton McLane
- Country Singer Larry Gatlin
- Country Singer Crystal Gayle
Bush funeral train
On Thursday, a 4,300-horsepower locomotive will carry Mr. Bush’s casket, along with relatives and close friends, for around 70 miles (113 kilometers). The journey through five small Texas towns is expected to take about two and a half hours, delivering the casket from suburban Houston to College Station. According to Bush spokesman Jim McGrath, the funeral train has been part of the official planning of his funeral for years.
There, a motorcade will take Bush to his presidential library at the university, where he will be laid to rest at a private ceremony next to his wife, Barbara, who died in April, and his daughter Robin, who died at age 3 in 1953.
This is the eighth funeral train in U.S. history and the first since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s body traveled from the National Cathedral in Washington through seven states to his Kansas hometown of Abilene 49 years ago. Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train was the first, in 1865.
The train’s sixth car, a converted baggage hauler called “Council Bluffs,” has been fitted with transparent sides to allow mourners lining the tracks on Thursday views of Bush’s flag draped coffin.
“We just rode on the railroads all the time, and I’ve never forgotten it,” Bush said at the time, recalling how he took trains, and often slept on them, during trips as a child with his family.