Former first lady had wit, devotion

Barbara Bush laid to rest in Houston

HOUSTON (AP) — Barbara Bush was the “first lady of the greatest generation.”

Historian Jon Meacham be­stowed the title on Barbara Bush while speaking to former presidents, ambassadors and hundreds of other mourners inside the nation’s largest Episcopal church during her funeral Saturday. He recalled the former first lady’s quick wit, as well as her devotion to promoting literacy, bringing awareness to AIDS patients and to her husband of 73 years.

Former President George H.W. Bush, the historian noted, was the “only boy she ever kissed.”

Meacham, who wrote a 2015 biography on George H.W. Bush, joined some 1,500 people on a gray, rainy Saturday to honor the wife of the 41st president and the mother of the 43rd. The private funeral filled St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston a day after more than 6,000 people came through the church to pay their respects during a public viewing.

Her son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, joked during his eulogy that his mother called her style of mothering him and his siblings “a benevolent dictatorship — but honestly it wasn’t always benevolent.” He emphasized how she believed in the power of laughter and that joy should be shared.

He choked up when saying his mother — known for her self-deprecating remarks about her wrinkles and gray hair — was “beautiful” until the very end. He said he felt privileged that he had a “front row” seat to the incredible love story that his parents shared.

His father, George H.W. Bush, was helped into the sanc­tuary in a wheelchair with Jeb and his son former President George W. Bush. He laughed as Meacham and others recalled his wife’s wicked sense of humor. Barbara and George Bush were married longer than any other presidential couple.

A eulogy was also given by Susan Baker, wife of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who said her longtime friend was “the secret sauce of this extraordinary family.”

Seated near the front of the church in the same pew were two other former presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — along with their wives and first lady Melania Trump.

Barbara Bush’s granddaughters delivered readings during the service and her grandsons served as pallbearers as the casket was later wheeled out of the church. George H.W. Bush followed in his wheelchair, pushed by son George W. Bush, shaking hands with some of the people in the pews. In his lap, he carried his glasses and a copy of the funeral program.

Barbara Bush died, with her husband by her side, at their home in Houston on Tuesday at age 92.

Other guests included former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, and professional golfer Phil Mickelson, along with Karl Rove, and other former White House staff.