George H.W. Bush’s eight grandsons served as honorary pall bearers at his Houston funeral on Thursday, walking solemnly in front of his flag-draped casket as it was led into the church ahead of a second, memorial service for the former president.
Thursday’s service was smaller than the state funeral held in Washington DC at the National Cathedral where foreign dignitaries, royalty and all five living presidents came together in grief to pay tribute to George H.W.
All 17 of the Bush grandchildren attended that service but their role on Thursday was more prominent.
The grandsons – George Prescott Bush, John Ellis Bush, Jr., Pierce Mallon Bush, Charles Walker Bush, Samuel Bush LeBlond, Robert Daniel Koch, Robert Pace Andrews II and Thomas Alexander Andrews – did not carry their grandfather’s casket. That honor belonged to members of the military.
Granddaughters Barbara Bush, Marshall Bush, Noelle Bush, Elizabeth Dwen Andrews, Nancy Ellis LeBlond Sosa and Georgia Grace Ellis Koch gave bible readings. None of George H.W.’s children spoke at Thursday’s service.
George H.W. Bush’s eight grandsons stand in front of his casket, ready to walk it to the altar, for his funeral in Houston, Texas, on Thursday
The casket of George H.W. Bush is brought into St Martin’s Episcopal Church, led by his grandsons who acted as honorary pallbearers to walk it in, on Thursday
The grandsons were solemn as they walked out of the church. At the front is George Prescott Bush and his brother John Ellis Bush, Jr
Twins Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush held hands as they left the church after the emotional service
The first readings on Thursday were from four of the granddaughters; Marshall Bush, Barbara Bush, Noelle Bush and Elizabeth Dwen Andrews, Neil Bush’s stepdaughter.
George H.W. Bush died last Friday at home in Houston aged 94
George Prescott Bush, Jeb Bush’s son, George H.W.’s oldest grandson, eulogized their grandfather.
His eulogy echoed those of the previous day which described the former president as a devoted family man and steadfast leader.
George Prescott described receiving letters from his ‘Gampy’ that were addressed to him, his cousins and his siblings, which told them how much he loved them and would always be there for them.
‘I stand before you as the oldest grandson of the man I simply knew as Gampy.
‘We are here to give thanks for this extraordinary life but I’d like to talk about some of the things that he was thankful for.
‘The things that to him, mattered most. My grandfather was thankful for his family,’ he said.
He told a heartwarming story of them playing on an imaginary boat while he was campaigning to become president and how George H.W. wrote about it later in a letter to him.
‘”P,” The letter read. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. The most fun was the big rock boat. Climbing out on it, watching you and Noelle play on it. Near the end of summer when the moon was full, tides were high.
Marshal Bush gives a reading at her grandfather, George H.W. Bush’s funeral in Houston, Texas, with cousins Barbara Bush (right), Noelle Bush (back center) and Elizabeth Dwen Andrews (left)
Barbara Bush gave a reading with her cousins, l-r: Elizabeth Dwen Andrews, Noelle Bush (behind Barbara) and Marshall Bush
Noelle Bush holds hands with her cousin Barbara while their step-cousin, Elizabeth Dwen Andrews, gives a reading. Behind them stands Marshall Bush
“There was that special day when it almost seemed like the boat was real.” In those few words my grandfather said more about his life than I could ever tell you this morning.
‘Here’s a man gearing up for the role of a lifetime and yet his mind went to his family…he still found time to write about an imaginary boat that he built with his grandson,’ he said.
‘It is the honor of a lifetime to share his name. God bless you Gampy. Until we meet again.
As children, he said, the grandchildren would wait for the ‘coast was clear’ then fight to ‘snag a spot’ on their grandfather’s bed after he had been given security briefings as president.
‘In a typical day he’d wake up at around 5am to review security briefings and grab his first cup of coffee for the day. Then, when the coast was clear, the grandkids would try to snag a spot on the bed and nestle up next to him and Ganny while they read the paper.
‘We all grew up in awe of my grandfather. A larger than life figure who we’d catch fly-fishing off the rocks of Maine where the bluefish were running,’ he said.
Recalling his grandfather’s competitive instinct, he won a laugh from the congregation by describing how he ‘challenged all the grandkids to the coveted “first to sleep award”‘.
In an email he sent to all his grandchildren after leaving public service, he wrote: ‘The only thing wrong with the last five months is that none of you were here enough.
‘Next year, promise this old gampster that you’ll spend more time with us here by the sea.
‘As you know I’ve had to give up fly fishing off the rocks here in Maine but there are plenty of wonderful things to do. I think of you all an awful lot.
Elizabeth Dwen Andrews and Noelle Pierce Bush, two of George H.W.’s granddaughters, read from the bible at his funeral
Nancy Ellis LeBlond Sosa, Dorothy Bush’s daughter with her first husband, and her half-sister, Georgia Grace Kotch, Dorothy’s daughter with her second husband, read from the bible at his funeral
George Prescott Bush, the oldest grandson, gave a moving eulogy where he paid tribute to his beloved ‘Gampy’
George Prescott Bush places a loving hand on his grandfather’s casket after delivering a eulogy at his funeral on Thursday
In his eulogy, George Prescott told how he and his cousins would fight over coveted spots in their grandparents’ bed as children. They are shown in Kennebunkport, at the family’s beloved seaside home in Maine
Members of the Bush family, from L-R; Neil Bush with his first wife Sharon, George W. Bush with his wife Laura, Margaret and Marvin Bush, Bobby Koch and Dorothy Bush Koch and Jeb Bush with his wife Columba and their three children, far right. George H.W. and his beloved wife Barbara are pictured, center, in front of the family’s home in Kennebunkport
THE BUSH FAMILY TREE
George W. and Laura Bush
Children: Twins Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush, 37
Jeb Bush and his wife Columba
Children: George Prescott Bush, Noelle Bush, John Ellis Bush Jr.
Pauline Robinson Bush 1949-1953
Pauline was the third Bush child. She died aged three from leukemia.
Neil Bush and his wife Maria Andrews
Children: Neil’s three children from his first marriage are Lauren, Ashley and Pierce.
His wife has three children from her first marriage who are considered part of the Bush family and who participated in the funeral events.
They are Elizabeth Dwen Andrews, Robert Pace Andrews II and Thomas Alexander Andrews
Marvin Bush and his wife Margaret
Children: Charles Walker Bush and Marshall Bush
Dorothy ‘Doro’ Bush and her husband Bobby Koch
Children: Dorothy has two children from her first marriage; Sam and Ellie LeBlond.
She has another two children with her current husband. They are Gigi Koch and Robert Koch.
‘I just wonder how each of you is doing. If you need me I am here for you because I love you very much.’
At the end of his eulogy, George Prescott, who is the son of Jeb and Columba Bush, said: ‘In death, as in life, my grandfather has won.
‘He has exchanged his earthly burdens for a heavenly home and is at peace.
‘George Herbert Walker Bush is the most gracious, most decent, most humble man that I will ever know.
‘It is the honor of a lifetime to share his name.
‘God bless you Gampy. Until we meet again.
‘Maybe on that rock boat that we built together.’
He took to the pulpit after a tearful James Baker, George H.W.’s secretary of state and best friend who was with him in his final days in Houston.
Baker sobbed as he finished his dignified and heartfelt speech.
He was overcome with emotion the previous day, as was former president George W. Bush who buckled into tears as he told of his hope that his father had been reunited with his mother Barbara and their toddler daughter Robin, who died in 1953 from leukemia, in heaven.
There were also joyful moments, as was the case at Wednesday’s state funeral, and a mix of country music and hymns.
Reba McEntire performed The Lord’s Prayer and country music band The Oak Ridge Boys sang Amazing Grace.
George H.W.’s body was taken on a Union Pacific locomotive, painted to resemble Air Force One, to his final resting place in College Station, Texas, where his wife is buried, after the service