Friends and family of George H.W. Bush gathered for a more intimate memorial service in Houston on Thursday, where former Secretary of State James Baker and Bush’s grandson George P. Bush remembered the late president for his self-restraint and moral fortitude.
The service, held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, was a toned-down version of the stately memorial at Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday. Bush’s grandchildren read from the Bible, and Baker and George P. Bush, the elder Bush’s oldest grandson, delivered emotional eulogies.
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The subtle political undertones that hovered over Wednesday’s memorial in Washington were largely absent, as President Donald Trump and most of the other former presidents did not attend.
Baker remembered Bush’s magnanimity and self-effacing character, focusing both on the former president’s historic role in the collapse of the Soviet Union, unification of Germany and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, as well as his humble nature among friends and staff.
Baker said Bush chose not to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall because “he knew better” and understood “humility toward and not humiliation of a fallen adversary” was the best path for peace.
“His incredible service to our nation and the world are already etched in the marble of time,” Baker said. “For millions and millions across the globe, the world became a better place because George Bush occupied the White House.”
Bush’s grandson and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush echoed Baker’s sentiments, remembering childhood memories of playing with his grandfather, whom he affectionately called “Gampy.” The younger Bush called his grandfather the “most gracious, most decent, most humble man I will ever know.”
George P. Bush recalled his grandfather’s military service in World War II, where he was a fighter pilot in Chichi Jima and narrowly escaped Japanese capture. George H.W. Bush was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, but the younger Bush said his grandfather never celebrated his courage in battle, focusing instead on future service.
“He often spoke about the timeless creed of duty, honor, country: The values that have sustained the republic for its over 240 years,” Bush said. “But this wasn’t something he just talked about; this was something he lived.”
George H.W. Bush’s body will later travel by train to College Station, Texas, where he will be buried at his presidential library at Texas A&M University.