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Former first lady Barbara Bush remembered fondly at service marking her life

Former President George W. Bush and his father former President George H.W. Bush watch as the casket of former first lady Barbara Bush is loaded into a hearse at St. Martin’s Episcopal on April 21 in Houston. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

“Our first and most important teacher.”

“The tough but loving enforcer.”

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“The first lady of the greatest generation.”

Family members, friends and colleagues on Saturday paid tribute to former first lady Barbara Pierce Bush at her funeral service held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, was pushed in his wheelchair into the church by George W. Bush, the 43rd president, a testament to the role Barbara Bush played in the nation’s history. A day before, George H.W. Bush had unexpectedly greeted members of the public as they paid their respects to his late wife.

Some 1,500 people gathered at the church, where the elder Bushes are members, for the service, which was televised live on America’s broadcast and cable networks.

First lady Melania Trump sat next to former President Barack Obama in the first row of pews, joined by former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. President Donald Trump decided not to attend out of respect for the family.

Barbara Bush, the matriarch of the Bush political dynasty, was remembered for her kindness, charm and sharp wit that endeared her to Americans and everyone who came into contact with her.

“… She our was teacher and role model on how to live a life of purpose and meaning,” former Florida. Gov. Jeb Bush said during his eulogy, one of three delivered during the roughly hour-and-a-half service. “Our mom was our first and most important teacher.”

America, he said, fell in love with his mom down to her favorite fake pearls, because she was “real.”

Susan Garrett Baker, wife of George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state Jim Baker, called Barbara Bush “the gold standard” of a friend who educated her in the ways of Washington and showed how she could use her position as a launching pad for the causes she cared about.

“What the world may not have seen was what an amazing, caring and beautiful friend that Bar was to so many of us,” she said during her eulogy.

Recalling her friend’s devotion to her own family, Baker said Barbara Bush was “the tough but loving enforcer … the secret sauce of this extraordinary family.”

“Known as Barbara, as Barb, as mom, as gammy, as the silver fox and as the enforcer. She was candid and comforting, steadfast and straightforward honest and loving. Babara Bush was the first lady of the greatest generation,” historian Jon Meacham said.

Former Presidents George W. Bush, left, and George H.W. Bush arrive at St. Martin's Episcopal Church for a funeral service for former first lady Barbara Bush, Saturday, April 21, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip )

In a statement, Melania Trump said: “Today the world paid tribute to a woman of indisputable character and grace. It was my honor to travel to Houston to give my respects to Barbara Bush and the remarkable life she led as a mother, wife, and fearless First Lady.”

“Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family,” President Trump wrote on Twitter. “In memory of First Lady Barbara Bush, there is a remembrance display located at her portrait in the Center Hall of the @WhiteHouse.”

Attendees included former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his wife Mila, former British Prime Minister John Major and his wife Norma, George H.W. Bush’s Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife Marilyn, George W. Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne.

Barbara Bush, who died April 17, will be interred at George H.W. Bush Library and Museum at Texas A&M University in College Station later on Saturday. She will be laid to rest next to her daughter Robin, who passed away at three years old after battling leukemia.

During the service, the Bush granddaughters read Biblical passages. Jenna Bush Hager read from Proverbs Chapter 31 verses 10-31.

“Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her,” the passage reads. “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

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