‘He valued character over pedigree’; George H.W. Bush remembered as a true gentleman

WASHINGTON, D.C. - "The best father a son or daughter could have...he is hugging Robin and holding mom's hand again," George W. Bush choked out during the last lines of his speech.

"Last Friday when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him," George W. Bush said during the service.

"Dad, I love you and you've been a wonderful father," he told him on the phone.

"I love you, too," George H.W. Bush responded. Those were his last words before he died Friday at the age of 94.

"I once heard it said of man that the idea is to die young as late as possible. At age 85 a favorite pastime of George H.W. Bush was firing up his boat 'The Fidelity' and joyfully fly across the Atlantic with the secret service boats struggling to keep up," George W. Bush opened up at his father's service.

"He was a genuinely optimistic man and that optimism made his children believe that anything was possible," Bush said of his father.

His "brushes with death made him cherish the gift of life," he said.

"He valued character over pedigree," George W. noted.

His speech was mixed with anecdotes that brought the crowd to laughter and memories that had many tearing up.

"He valued a good joke," George W. Bush said.

"He was born with just two settings. Full throttle and sleep."

"In George Bush's theme of life, during all the highs and lows there was a simple credo. 'What would we do without family and friends?'" former United States senator from Wyoming Alan Simpson remembered of George H.W. Bush.

"He was a class act from birth to death," Simpson said.

The two met in 1962.

"You would've wanted him on your side. He never lost his sense of humor...the most decent and honorable person I ever met was George Bush," Simpson noted in tribute. "None of us were ready for this day," he continued.

"Thank you for him. God rest his soul," Simpson said in closing.

"When George H.W. Bush was president every world leader knew that they were dealing with a gentlemen," former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said at the service honoring George H.W. Bush.

Mulroney was the Prime Minister of Canada when George H.W. Bush was president.

His speech to the congregation noted Bush's incredible list of accomplishments, including the Clean Air Act and the creation of NAFTA.

Granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager read passages from Revelation.

Revelation 21:1-4 21st Century King James Version
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no more sea.

2 And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them; and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21:23-25 King James Version
23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

The Washington National Cathedral choir sang the hymn "The King of love my shepherd is."

"The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am his,
and he is mine forever."

The lyrics are a reminder of faith being such a big part of George H.W. Bush's life.

"Why me? Why was I spared?"

Jon Meacham, presidential historian and author, said that was a question President George H.W. Bush asked himself daily.

He began asking himself that question in 1944 when the then Navy Lieutenant's plane was hit in an attack in Japan. His crew member did not survive the attack.

"America's last great soldier statesman" was how Meacham described Bush.

"How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you," Meacham quoted from a letter Bush wrote to Barbara during World War II.

"Why was he spared?" Meacham closed. "He made our lives and the lives of nations freer better, warmer and nobler."

The Washington National Cathedral mourners filled the building with the song, "Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven."

"Sun and moon, bow down before Him;
Dwellers all in time and space,
Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia!"

Neil Bush's daughters, Lauren Bush Lauren and Ashley Walker Lauren read a passage from Isaiah.

Isaiah 60:18-20 21st Century King James Version
18 Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation and thy gates Praise.

19 The sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.

20 Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.

"For they rest from their labors," The Reverend Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr. stated as the casked of George H.W. Bush was placed at the front of the church.

The bell of the Washington National Cathedral tolled 41 times as George H.W.'s flag-draped casket was walked down the aisle.

"With faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the body of our brother George for burial," The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, of The Episcopal Church said as he received the casket of George H.W. Bush at the front steps of the cathedral.

George H.W. Bush's children and their spouses met the casket outside the cathedral. The band played 'Hail to the Chief' as the casket was removed from the hearse.

The president and the ex-presidents are sitting in the left side of the cathedral in the front row.

George W. Bush greeted them before sitting with his family on the right.

The state funeral motorcade took part of the same route that President George H.W. Bush took in his inaugural parade 30 years ago. It took his casket right by his former residence at the White House.

After Wednesday's service, Bush's remains will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church before burial Thursday at his family plot.

The 41st president oversaw the post-Cold War transition and led a successful Gulf War, only to lose re-election in a generational shift to Bill Clinton in 1992. He died last week in Houston at age 94.

People waited hours in line to pay their respects to George H.W. Bush as he lies in state.

But the former president might not have expected such honor.

According to the spokesperson who worked for George H.W. Bush post-presidency, while making plans for the services, the president asked, "Do you think anyone will come?"

That was in 2011.

The lines of mourners have been steady since the president's casket was brought to Washington Monday.

Yesterday, many of his grandchildren, children and friends came to say their goodbyes before the state funeral service honoring him Wednesday.

The photos of them at the Capitol Rotunda remind us that he was a man who was loved. As he was known to say to members of his family, "I love you more than the tongue can speak."