HOUSTON – The choir sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" to begin the funeral for former first lady Barbara Bush as more than 1,000 people gathered in west Houston to remember the woman known as “America’s grandmother.”
Bush died Tuesday at her Houston home, surrounded by her family. She was 92.
Among the guests attending the invitation-only funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church were first lady Melania Trump, former presidents, former vice presidents and former prime ministers.
The Bush family, including former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, took their seats just before the service began.
One-by-one, her grandchildren read from Proverbs 31:10-31, a passage known as “The Virtuous Woman.” The passage describes a strong, fearless, hardworking woman who does what is needed to provide for her family and faith.
The former first lady was eulogized by historian and author Jon Meacham, her friend and confidant Susan Baker and her son Jeb Bush.
After a reading from “Romeo and Juliet” by Bush’s daughter, Dorothy, the service ended with the singing of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” a favorite of the former first lady and a fitting way to remember her, according to Rev. Russell Levenson Jr., who delivered the homily.
Video of the entire funeral service is provided at the bottom of this article.
Jon Meacham, an author, began his tribute to Bush by recounting a time he was mistaken for fellow author John Grisham, and how, when he told the former first lady about it, she wondered how Grisham would feel about the mix-up.
Bush had a very good sense of humor, and humor filled Meacham’s eulogy, but he balanced it with heartfelt memories of conversations he has had with the family about its matriarch.
“She was a point of light,” Meacham said of Barbara Bush, recalling her husband’s words during his speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention.
“She was candid and comforting, steadfast and straight-forward, honest and loving,” he said. “Barbara Bush was the first lady of the greatest generation.”
Susan Baker, Bush’s personal friend and confidant, remembered the former first lady as a firecracker and a stalwart of supporter of her and her family.
“This really helped us become part of the Washington world,” Baker said, recalling Bush’s many invitations to lunch.
Baker also recalled Bush's generous and friendly nature. She recounted a time when Bush received a letter from a pen pal who had named a cow after her. The cow went on to compete in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
“Bar’s beauty was evident in every day of her life,” Baker said. “It’s a great comfort that we will see this great servant again one day.”
She ended by thanking God for bringing Barbara Bush into her life.
“Of course, the world has seen Barbara’s many public contributions, but what the world may not have seen is what an amazing, caring and beautiful friend that Bar was to so many of us,” Baker said.
Jeb Bush remembered his mother as someone who didn’t want a lot of fuss over her and described her as the family’s teacher and enforcer.
“What a blessing to have a teacher like that 24/7,” he said. “She called her style the benevolent dictatorship.”
He said the family has had a front-row seat to one the most amazing love stories of all times and read one of the letters his father wrote to Bush during their 73-year marriage.
“Their love was a constant in our lives,” he said.
He ended with anticipation of a heavenly reunion.
“Mom, we look forward to being with you and Robin and all of God’s children,” he said. “We love you.”
Following the funeral service, Bush's grandchildren helped load her casket into a waiting hearse. The Bush family then traveled by motorcade to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station.
The procession traveled through Memorial Park before proceeding north to College Station. Crowds gathered and waved American flags as the motorcade came through the park.
"To me, to be able to be out here and just see her pass by and be this close is just, just awesome," said Tonia Ellison, who was at Memorial Park.
"I'm humbled that I get to see Barbara Bush go by, and Bush 41," said Kerry Walsh, as he held an American flag. "(He has) always been one of my heroes. What a guy. The classiest guy that I know that's been in the White House. I go back to the Eisenhower days."
In College Station, people lined the streets along the motorcade route, to honor the former first lady. Members of the Texas A&M University's Corps of Cadets lined the street leading up to the presidential library, saluting as the hearse carrying Bush's casket passed.
The motorcade turned behind the library and headed for the family's cemetery, where Bush will be interred in a private ceremony.
Video of funeral service
The video below shows Bush's entire funeral service.