World Leaders Gather For George H.W. Bush Funeral

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The funeral of President George HW Bush is underway in the nation’s capital with US and foreign dignitaries and five current and former presidents gathered to bid a final farewell to the World War Two hero and Cold War veteran.

An unusual bipartisan spirit was on display at the service with both Republican and Democratic politicians gathering to honour a president who called for a “kinder, gentler” nation.

A ceremony at Washington National Cathedral, the nexus of state funerals, caps three days of remembrance by dignitaries and ordinary citizens as they honored the Republican president who oversaw the post-Cold War transition and led a successful Gulf War, only to lose re-election in a generational shift to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.

The four living ex-presidents are present – among them, George W Bush will eulogise his father – and President Donald Trump is attending but is not scheduled to speak. Also attending: Prince Charles on behalf of the Queen, King Abdulla and Queen Rania of Jordan, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel and Poland’s president Andrzej Duda, among representatives of more than a dozen countries.

In an emotional tribute to his father, Mr Bush revealed that in older age Bush Senior would watch cop show reruns with the volume turned up, ride his speed boat so fast that the secret service struggled to keep up and was still being slipped Grey Goose vodka by friends in hospital. “He was born with just two settings: full throttle, then sleep,” Mr Bush said.

The former president reflected on his father’s lust for life even in his ninth decade, including an anecdote about how he took “great delight” in the Grey Goose vodka a friend smuggled into his hospital room.

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Mr Bush told the congregation: “At age 85, a favourite pastime of George HW Bush was firing up his boat, The Fidelity, and opening up the three 300-power engines to fly across the Atlantic with the Secret Service boats straining to keep up.”

“At age 90, George H W Bush parachuted out of an aircraft and landed on the grounds of St Ann’s [Church] by the sea in Kennebunkport, Maine.”

Enumerating his great qualities, Mr Bush said: “Dad could relate to people of all walks of life,” he said. “He valued character over pedigree and looked for the good in each person — and he usually found it…to us, his was the brightest of the thousand points of light.”

Mr Trump tweeted Wednesday that he was “looking forward to being with the Bush family,” calling the day “a celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life.” Mr Trump and his wife Melania took their seats after the others, briefly greeting the Obamas seated next to them.

Also expected in the invitation-only crowd: Mike Lovejoy, a Kennebunkport electrician and fix-it man who has worked at Mr Bush’s Maine summer estate since 1990 and says he was shocked and heartened to be asked to come.

Mr Trump ordered the federal government to close on Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.

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