Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who became close to Mr. Bush as his biographer, called him “America’s last great soldier-statesman, a 20th-century founding father.”
He also effectively explained Mr. Bush’s thousand-lights phrase to Mr. Trump, seated not far away.
“Abraham Lincoln’s better angels of our nature and George H.W. Bush’s thousand points of light are companion verses in America’s national hymn,” Mr. Meacham said. “For Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the convenient, to hope rather than to fear and to heed not our worst impulses but our best instincts.”
By now, Mr. Bush’s storied life is well known. A son of privilege and product of an elite education at Greenwich Country Day School, Phillips Academy and Yale. One of the youngest navy combat pilots in World War II, shot down over the Pacific and rescued by a submarine. Texas oilman. Congressman. Ambassador to the United Nations. Republican Party chairman. Envoy to China. C.I.A. director. Vice president. President.
But also husband of 73 years, father of six, grandfather of 14 and great-grandfather of eight. Tennis player. Mangler of the English language. Pork rind aficionado. Broccoli hater. Prolific note writer. Practical joker. Avid speed boater. Inventor of speed golf. Geriatric sky diver. Lover of funny socks.
A patrician by background, Mr. Bush nonetheless was in many ways the most human of presidents. Not the towering figure Reagan was, but neither was he as remote. His foibles were easily parodied, but his essential humanity was not. Nearly everyone who gathered in Washington in recent days had a story of a personal note or gesture.
Former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican of Wyoming and a longtime friend of the former president, said Mr. Bush could have just one letter as his epigraph, L for loyalty. “It coursed through his blood,” he said, “loyalty to his country, loyalty to his family, loyalty to his friends, loyalty to the institutions of government and always, always, always a friend to his friends.”