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George H.W. Bush funeral: Former president remembered for integrity, service

Dignitaries, politicians and family gathered at Washington National Cathedral on Dec. 5, to bid farewell to former president George H.W. Bush. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Former president George W. Bush said Wednesday that his father “showed me what it means to be a president that serves with integrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country.”

His remarks came as mourners from across the nation gathered in Washington to pay their respects and celebrate the life of former president George H.W. Bush at a state funeral at Washington National Cathedral.

With President Trump and four living former U.S. presidents in attendance, Bush was remembered as “America’s last great soldier-statesman” by biographer Jon Meacham, one of four people delivering eulogies. The service concluded around 1:15 p.m.

Former president George W. Bush became emotional during his eulogy for his father, former president George H.W. Bush, on Dec. 5. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

7:00 p.m.: Bush arrives in Houston

Special Airlift Mission 41 was met by a military honor guard and crowds of onlookers as it touched down at Ellington Field in Houston Wednesday evening.

After a 21-gun salute, Bush’s casket was taken to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, where a funeral service will be held Thursday morning. Bush will be taken by train later Thursday to the George Bush Presidential Library & Museum in College Station, Tex., where his remains will be interred.

2:1o p.m.: Bush receives another 21-gun salute at departure ceremony

Upon arrival at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Bush was given another 21-gun salute as part of a departure ceremony.

“Hail to the Chief” was played, followed by “Goin’ Home” as Bush’s coffin was removed from the hearse and taken to a presidential aircraft.

The plane, among those dubbed “Air Force One” when the current president is on board, is being called “Special Airlift Mission 41” in honor of the 41st president.

Family members looked on from the tarmac as Bush’s coffin was loaded onto the plane. Former president George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, among others, stood with hands over their hearts, before walking over to board themselves.

1:20 p.m.: Service ends, Bush’s coffin placed in hearse

As the service ended, Bush’s coffin was carried from the church to the sounds of “Hail to the Chief” and placed in a hearse that will take it to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. The coffin will then be flown to Houston.

An arrival ceremony is scheduled at 6:45 p.m. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, where Bush will lie in repose.

1:10 p.m.: Music playing a prominent part in funeral

More than 30 selections were listed on the order of service, beginning with preludes by organ and carillon, a keyboard instrument made up of a set of bells. A handful of contemporary composers were included, including John Williams, whose “Hymn to the Fallen” from the film “Saving Private Ryan” was performed by the United States Marine Orchestra. In another cinematic moment, Aaron Copland’s composition for the 1940 film “Our Town,” based on the Thornton Wilder play, was also performed by the Marine Orchestra.

Some performers were familiar.

Ronan Tynan, a member of the Irish Tenors, sang a version of “The Lord’s Prayer” by Albert Hay Malotte with backing from the Marine Orchestra and two choirs.

Michael W. Smith, the Grammy Award-winning contemporary Christian artist, performed his 1982 hit “Friends” with orchestra and choir. Smith posted a rehearsal video Tuesday on Instagram with the caption “A farewell tribute!!!!!!”

12:55 p.m.: ‘My hunch is heaven just got a bit kinder and gentler’

The Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson, rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, delivered the homily, drawing tears from some in the crowd.

“My hunch is heaven just got a bit kinder and gentler. … Welcome to your eternal home, where ceiling and visibility are unlimited, and life goes on forever,” Levenson said.

12:30 p.m.: George W. Bush eulogizes his father

Former president George W. Bush remembered his father as someone who “valued character over pedigree,” who “showed us how setbacks can strengthen,” and who, with his optimism, “made his children believe anything was possible.”

George H.W. Bush “could tease and needle but never out of malice,” his son said, with President Trump sitting in the front row.

“One reason Dad knew how to die young was that he almost did it — twice,” Bush said, referring to his father having had a staph infection as a teenager and later being shot down as a Navy pilot.

“For Dad’s part, I think those brushes with death made him cherish the gift of life,” Bush said.

He elicited a few laughs from the crowd, particularly when he recalled his father’s longtime friend, James A. Baker III, sneaking him Grey Goose vodka and steak when Bush was in the hospital in his later years.

His father also enjoyed a good joke and had an email list where he and others would share their favorites — including some off-color jokes, Bush said.

“To us he was close to perfect, but not totally perfect. … The man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli,” Bush said, in a reference to the food famously loathed by his father. “And, by the way, he passed these genetic defects on to us.”

Bush broke down at the end of his remarks as he recalled his father as the “best father,” and prompted applause from the crowd after saying that he smiles “knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again.”

Robin was George H.W. and Barbara Bush’s daughter, who died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953.

12:20 p.m.: Irish tenor Ronan Tynan performs

Irish tenor Ronan Tynan performed the song “Last Full Measure of Devotion.”

Tynan visited Bush the day he died and sang “Silent Night” and a Gaelic song. Tynan also sang at the funeral of former president Ronald Reagan.

12:10 p.m.: Alan Simpson hails Bush’s friendship and loyalty

Former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) prompted some laughs from the crowd with a self-deprecating speech in which he celebrated his friendship with Bush, which began more than five decades ago in 1962. Bush stood by him through his darkest times, Simpson said.

“My life in Washington was rather tumultuous,” he said. “I went from the ‘A’ social list to the ‘Z,’ and never came back to the ‘A.’ In one dark period I was feeling awful low, and all my wounds were self-inflicted.”

When he questioned Bush about his decision to stay by him, Simpson said Bush responded, “This is about friendship and loyalty.”

Bush loved a good joke, Simpson added, but he “never, ever could remember a punchline — and I mean never.”

In an interview with The Post’s Karen Tumulty on Tuesday, Simpson said of his eulogy: “You cry while you’re preparing it, so you won’t cry while you’re giving it.”

11:55 a.m.: Former Canadian prime minister delivers tribute to Bush

The second eulogy was given by former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, whose last four years in office overlapped with Bush’s term as president.

“Fifty or 100 years from now, as historians review the accomplishments and the context of all who have served as president, I believe it will be said that in the life of this country, the United States — which is, in my judgment, the greatest democratic republic that God has ever placed on the face of this earth — I believe it will be said that no occupant of the Oval Office was more courageous, more principled and more honorable than George Herbert Walker Bush,” Mulroney said.

He hailed Bush’s foreign and domestic policy achievements, including the NAFTA agreement, which he said had been “modernized and improved by recent administrations,” in what appeared to be veiled swipe at President Trump’s efforts to terminate the deal.

Mulroney said that when world leaders dealt with Bush, they “knew that they were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader, one that was distinguished, resolute and brave.”

11:50 a.m.: Jenna Bush Hager delivers a reading

The second reading, from The Bible’s Book of Revelation, was delivered by another granddaughter of the late president, Jenna Bush Hager.

Hager, 37, is one of two daughters of former president George W. Bush. She is known for her work as a contributor on NBC’s “Today Show.”

11:40 a.m.: First of four eulogies delivered by Bush biographer

Presidential historian and Bush biographer Jon Meacham delivered the first of four eulogies, calling Bush “America’s last great soldier-statesman.”

“An imperfect man, he left us a more perfect union,” Meacham said of the 41st president.

His remarks included some gentle ribbing of Bush for what the former president had acknowledged wasn’t his strongest suit: public speaking.

“’Fluency in English,’ President Bush once remarked, ‘is something that I’m often not accused of,’” Meacham said, adding: “His tongue may have run amok at times, but his heart was steadfast.”

Meacham also recounted Bush being shot down as a Navy pilot in 1944 and barely escaping death.

“And so we ask, as he so often did: Why him? Why was he spared?” Meacham said. “The workings of Providence are mysterious, but this much is clear: the George Herbert Walker Bush who survived that fiery fall into the waters of the Pacific made our lives, and the lives of nations, freer, better, warmer, nobler.”

11:25 a.m.: First reading delivered by Bush granddaughters

The first reading, from the Bible’s Book of Isaiah, was delivered by two granddaughters of the late president, Lauren Bush Lauren and Ashley Walker Bush.

Lauren, 34, is the daughter of Neil Bush, one of the president’s sons. She previously had a modeling career before co-founding the FEED Projects in 2007, a nonprofit focused on feeding children around the world. She is married to David Lauren, the son of fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

Ashley, 29, is also the daughter of Neil Bush. She works as a film producer.

11:10 a.m.: Bush’s coffin taken from hearse into cathedral

Bush’s coffin was removed from the hearse to the music “Ruffles and Flourishes” and “Hail to the Chief,” followed by the hymn, “For All the Saints.”

“With faith in Jesus Christ, we accept the body of our brother George for burial,” Bishop Michael Bruce Curry, the head of the Episcopal Church in America, said in a prayer outside the cathedral.

Former president George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, walked in, stopping to shake hands with President Trump and the other three living former presidents.

The coffin was then carried down the aisle as bells tolled.

Earlier, the choir inside the cathedral sang a downbeat version of “America the Beautiful.”

10:50 a.m.: Trump and first lady take seats in front row

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump walked down the aisle and took their seats in the front row of the cathedral next to those of former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, all of whom were accompanied by their wives.

Both Trumps shook hands with the Obamas before they sat down.

10:30 a.m.: Bush’s flag-draped coffin departs the Capitol

Bush’s flag-draped coffin was carried down the steps of the Capitol as family members and congressional leaders looked on. As members of the military carried the coffin, “Hail to the Chief” was played and Bush received a 21-gun salute.

As they proceeded toward the hearse, two hymns played: “My Faith Looks Up to thee” and “Nearer My God to thee.”

The motorcade left the Capitol, heading down Pennsylvania Avenue, where it was to pass the White House before heading toward Washington National Cathedral.

10:25 a.m.: President Trump departs White House for funeral

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump emerged from the residence of the White House and boarded the black presidential limousine.

The motorcade started rolling from the South Lawn headed to Washington National Cathedral.

10:10 a.m.: Mourners mingle as they await start of service

As mourners at Washington National Cathedral awaited the arrival of Bush’s motorcade, countless conversations were taking place inside.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan could be seen chatting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). The chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., was also on hand.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was spotted talking to former vice president Joe Biden.

Several members of Congress lined up to talk to former president Jimmy Carter.

Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker was also spotted in the cathedral.

9:55 a.m.: Bush family leaves Blair House en route to Capitol

The Bush family has left Blair House, a residence across the street from the White House, and is en route to the Capitol, where the coffin of the 41st president has been lying in state since Monday.

A departure ceremony is scheduled to begin shortly at the Capitol. After that, a motorcade will proceed to Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service.

9:45 a.m.: Dignitaries continue to arrive at funeral

A pair of former Democratic vice presidents, Joe Biden and Al Gore, are among the more recent arrivals at Washington National Cathedral.

Members of Congress from both parties are also arriving and taking seats in the cavernous cathedral.

9:30 a.m.: Head of U.S. Episcopal Church among those officiating at Bush’s funeral

Among those officiating at Wednesday’s funeral is Michael Bruce Curry, the head of the Episcopal Church in America.

Curry made headlines in May for delivering a riveting sermon at the royal British wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Other details of the service are included in the funeral program, which is being distributed.

9:15 a.m.: Dignitaries arriving at funeral site

Several dignitaries have been spotted arriving at Washington National Cathedral, including former Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and former Republican vice president Richard B. Cheney.

Others on site include Karl Rove, the political adviser to George W. Bush; Colin Powell, a former secretary of state; and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and personal lawyer to President Trump.

Large buses are pulling up on the south side of the cathedral and depositing guests, who are entering through the front doors.

9 a.m.: Trump says Bush service will be ‘a day of celebration’

Two hours before the service was scheduled to begin, President Trump wrote on Twitter that he is looking forward to being with the Bush family.

“This is not a funeral, this is a day of celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life,” Trump said. “He will be missed!”

Trump is expected to attend the funeral at Washington National Cathedral along with his wife Melania.

8:50 a.m.: Funeral to include a few personal touches

The state funeral will be steeped in tradition, but there will also be a few personal touches to remind mourners that the nation’s 41st president was also his own man.

Bush will be wearing socks adorned with planes flying in formation, a nod to his service in World War II, when he was shot down while flying a torpedo bomber in the Western Pacific.

After he is flown back to Houston on Wednesday afternoon, he will be transported in a special “Bush 4141” train to College Station, before being driven to his presidential library, where he will be buried.

And unlike Reagan, Bush will not travel in a ceremonial horse-drawn wagon, called a caisson, according to spokesman Jim McGrath.

Read more from The Post’s Michael E. Miller here.

8:30 a.m.: German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Bush family

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was spotted by CBS News arriving at Blair House to visit with the Bush family ahead of the funeral.

Former president George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, are among those staying at Blair House, the presidential guest quarters across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

Trump and his wife, Melania, paid a visit to the Bush family at Blair House on Tuesday night, traveling in the presidential parade limousine, with a motorcade of at least seven other vehicles.

8:15 a.m.: Visible police presence in place

Three hours before the service, there was a visible police presence along Massachusetts Avenue, part of the route between the U.S. Capitol and Washington National Cathedral. A motorcade carrying Bush is scheduled to leave the Capitol around 10 a.m.

The number of police vehicles increased close to the cathedral, with dozens holding positions along the roads. Snowplows were blocking most residential streets within four blocks of the funeral site.

Traffic was snarled on upper Massachusetts Avenue, especially around the Wisconsin Avenue intersection.

There was also already a heavy police presence around the cathedral, including Secret Service and the D.C. police officers. A handful of Army officers in dress uniform were also on the site.

7:15 a.m.: Capitol Rotunda closed to the public

The Capitol Rotunda was closed to the public around 7 a.m. on Wednesday after being open for more than 35 hours in honor of the nation’s 41st president.

Mourners who came to pay their respects included former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, which Bush once led; members of Congress; diplomats; World War II veterans; sports stars and many others.

Among the most memorable moments was former senator Bob Dole rising from his wheelchair, jaw quivering, to deliver a quick, crisp salute to Bush’s coffin.

6:45 a.m.: George W. Bush, three others to deliver eulogies

Former president George W. Bush, the son of the 41st president, is among those who will deliver eulogies on Wednesday.

Others include former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney; former Republican senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming; and presidential historian and Bush biographer Jon Meacham.

6:40 a.m.: All living presidents, foreign dignitaries plan to attend

President Trump and all four living former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — are planning to attend services at Washington National Cathedral. The spouses of all five leaders are also expected to be among the mourners.

The list of guests also include many foreign dignitaries, including Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne; King Abdullah II of Jordan; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Polish President Andrzej Duda; former Polish president Lech Walesa and former British prime minister John Major.

6:30 a.m.: Following Washington funeral, Bush to be flown to Houston

The coffin carrying Bush’s remains is scheduled to depart the U.S. Capitol at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and travel by motorcade to Washington National Cathedral.

Funeral services are expected to begin around 11 a.m. At the conclusion of the service, expected around 1:15 p.m., Bush will be taken to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. He will then be flown to Houston.

An arrival ceremony is scheduled at 6:45 p.m. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, where Bush will then lie in repose.

Elise Viebeck, Seung Min Kim, Patricia Sullivan and Michael E. Miller contributed to this report.