Guests began arriving this morning at the Houston church where former U.S. president George H.W. Bush will be remembered once more before his burial.
Services for the 41st president are at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, where the Bush family worshipped. The church’s doors opened two hours early for guests, who arrived on buses with marquees reading “George H.W. Bush.”
About 1,200 mourners are expected, with Bush’s grandchildren serving as honorary pallbearers and as readers in the service.
Bush’s grandson George P. Bush will give the other eulogy. The son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush is the Texas land commissioner.
More than 11,000 people, some waiting for hours, paid their respects at the Houston church as Bush lay in repose after his casket arrived from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Bush died last week at age 94. He was remembered Wednesday at a state funeral in Washington that included the current president, Donald Trump, and all living former presidents, as well as the last five U.S. vice-presidents and international dignitaries including Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney.
George W. Bush, his son and the 43rd U.S. president, eulogized his father as “the brightest of a thousand points of light.”
Burial at presidential library
After Thursday’s private funeral, a hearse will carry Bush’s casket from St. Martin’s to a Union Pacific facility north of Houston near the international airport named for him. A special train will then take Bush’s casket to the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, where Bush will be buried at his presidential library next to his wife, Barbara, who died in April, and their young daughter Robin, who died in 1953.
The Houston funeral will feature some of the former president’s favourite country music stars.
The Oak Ridge Boys will perform Amazing Grace and Reba McEntire will sing The Lord’s Prayer.
Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys says Bush had personally requested that the group sing Amazing Grace. Allen told the Tennessean newspaper the band did an impromptu performance for Bush at the White House when he was vice-president, and that began a decades-long friendship.
Allen says the band is honoured to keep its promise to Bush to perform.
A number of big names from the world of sports will also be on hand. Bush was a fan of Houston’s sports teams, while his son George was once part-owner of the Texas Rangers.
Baseball Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Jeff Bagwell, former Houston Rockets star Yao Ming, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane and current Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt are among those scheduled to attend.