Tue | Jan 22, 2019

'First lady of the greatest generation'

Published:Sunday | April 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush (centre) accompanied by their family members watch as pall-bearers carry the coffin of former first lady Barbara Bush after a funeral at the St Martin's Episcopal Church, yesterday.


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 yesterday.

He recalled the former first lady's quick wit and 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 grey, rainy Saturday to honour 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 Governor 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 emphasised how she believed in the power of laughter and that joy should be shared.

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

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 current first lady Melania Trump.

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