Around 1,500 guests attended the largest Episcopal church in the US on Saturday, for the private funeral of Barbara Bush. The wife of the 41st president, George HW Bush, and mother of the 43rd, George W Bush, died on Tuesday at her Houston home. She was 92.
First lady Melania Trump, former president Bill Clinton, former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama were among those at St Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.
Donald Trump, a fierce critic and political rival of the Bush family, did not attend. The White House said this week Trump would stay away in order “to avoid disruptions due to added security, and out of respect for the Bush family and friends attending the service”.
On Wednesday, Trump said Barbara Bush was a “wonderful, wonderful person” and “a titan in American life”, adding: “Her strength and toughness really embodied the spirit of our country. She was a woman of proud patriotism and profound faith.”
On Saturday, the New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, whom Trump spent some of the morning attacking on Twitter, tweeted that “having [the president] there was not something the Bushes wanted”.
Trump later tweeted: “Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family. In memory of First Lady Barbara Bush, there is a remembrance display located at her portrait in the Center Hall of the White House.”The president, who had gone to one of his golf courses in Florida, sent out the tweet in the same minute as a message with video of supporters apparently shot from the presidential motorcade, in which he praised “fantastic crowd and great people yesterday in Key West”.
Referring to Mar-a-Lago, his luxury resort, Trump then added that he was “heading to the Southern White House to watch the Funeral Service of Barbara Bush. First Lady Melania has arrived in Houston to pay our respects. Will be a beautiful day!”
In a statement released on Friday, the family said Barbara Bush had chosen her son Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who ran against Trump for the Republican nomination – and was notoriously derided by the billionaire as “low-energy” – to deliver a eulogy.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump also attacked Jeb’s brother, George W Bush, for his record in office, over the attacks of 9/11 and regarding the Iraq war. In return, George HW Bush has publicly called Trump a “blowhard”. George W Bush has settled for veiled criticism in public remarks.
Also scheduled to speak on Saturday were Barbara Bush’s long-time friend Susan Baker, wife of former secretary of state James Baker, and historian Jon Meacham, who wrote a biography of George HW Bush.
Burial was set for the Bush Library at Texas A&M University, about 100 miles north-west of the city. The burial site is in a gated plot surrounded by trees and near a creek. Barbara Bush’s daughter, Robin, is buried there. She died of leukemia in 1953, aged three.
Only one other woman has been married to one president and the mother of another. That was Abigail Adams, wife of the second president, John Adams, and mother of the sixth, John Quincy Adams.
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