At 94, George H. W. Bush was the oldest living US president in history, but this week those who knew him best recalled a man who always remained young at heart.
During his State funeral at the Washington National Cathedral, friends, family and colleagues came together to remember him not just as a president, but as a father, husband, and role model who made the most out of life for each of those 94 years.
The most touching of these tributes came from his son, George W. Bush, who said goodbye to his father in an emotional eulogy that brought the former president and many others to tears.
“I once heard it said of man that the idea is to die young as late as possible,” the former president began. It was an ideal that his father took to heart. Well into his 90s, Bush Sr. still had a wild streak.
As his son recalled, one of his father’s favorite pastimes was taking out his three-engine boat and watching as his Secret Service detail struggle to keep up. At 90, Bush Sr. strapped on a parachute and jumped out of a plane.
"At age 90, George H.W. Bush parachuted out of an aircraft and landed on the grounds of St. Ann By the Sea.. the church where his mom was married and where he worshiped often. Mother liked to say, he chose the location just in case the chute didn't open." #Remembering41 #Bush41 pic.twitter.com/c1FPfPTGfI— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) December 5, 2018
Later, it was the thrill of enjoying a bottle of smuggled vodka with a friend during a hospital stay.
"In his 90s, he took great delight when his closest pal, James A. Baker, smuggled a bottle of Grey Goose vodka into his hospital room. Apparently it paired well with the steak Baker delivered from Morton's." -- Former POTUS George W. Bush #Remembering41 pic.twitter.com/A7jzQvXz25— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) December 5, 2018
The drive behind his father’s youthful exuberance according to Bush was two early brushes with death. “Those brushes with death made him cherish the gift of life and he vowed to live every day to the fullest.”
Part of living life to the fullest meant that Bush Sr. was always busy, “but never too busy to share his love of life with those around him.”
George W. Bush pays tribute to his father: "Those brushes with death made him cherish the gift of life and he vowed to live every day to the fullest" https://t.co/cKodAlcLPL #remembering41 pic.twitter.com/3zQ7OVgz6Z— ABC News (@ABC) December 5, 2018
And it was a love that he shared with people “from all walks of life.”
Former President George W. Bush on his father: “Dad could relate to people from all walks of life. He was an empathetic man. He valued character over pedigree … He looked for the good in each person, and he usually found it” #Bush41 pic.twitter.com/DW3oPm1Wop— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 5, 2018
To his family, Bush Sr. was “close to perfect.”
"His short game was lousy...The man couldn't stomach vegetables, especially broccoli." Former President George W. Bush pokes some fun at his late father.— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) December 5, 2018
Continuing coverage of George H.W. Bush's funeral: https://t.co/BTwQriRwiW #GeorgeHWBushFuneral pic.twitter.com/QAg1eu1XDY
And until the end of his life, he remained a caring father and role model.
"To his very last days, dad's life was instructive," George W. Bush says. "As he aged he taught us how to grow with dignity, humor and kindness—and when the good Lord finally called, how to meet him with courage and with the joy of the promise of what lies ahead." #Remembering41 pic.twitter.com/A2y9FOvoug— ABC News (@ABC) December 5, 2018
Bush then recalled the last time he spoke with his father.
"Last Friday, when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him," George W. Bush says of his father. "I said, 'Dad, I love you, and you've been a wonderful father.'— ABC News (@ABC) December 5, 2018
"The last words he would ever say on earth were, 'I love you, too.'" https://t.co/B3hZufXKHW #Remembering41 pic.twitter.com/pJLjQ9ej6j
When he ended his eulogy, the former president broke down into tears as he called Bush Sr. “the best father a son or daughter could have.”
George W. Bush tearfully concludes his eulogy to his father: "Through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could have...Dad is hugging Robin, and holding mom's hand again." https://t.co/B3hZufXKHW pic.twitter.com/fxqwjIcSvi— ABC News (@ABC) December 5, 2018
It was a beautiful tribute that brought many to tears.
I broke when George W. Bush cried. Having lost a parent recently I know the pain way too well. Beautiful eulogy to his father and may George HW Bush rest in peace— Cynthia (@cynthiayip) December 5, 2018
Rest in Peace Mr.Bush this was a sad moment but a moment that shows how loved you was by your family thank you for your service to this country #Remembering41— Henjiman Button (@HenjiGaming) December 5, 2018
What a beautiful tribute from a SON to his FATHER. When I saw him cry I lost it and broke down. I didn't like him as president,his eulogy however was emotion filled,honest and touching.— Gay Rebel. (@NonCompliant0) December 5, 2018
And for one day, at least, the noise of politics was drowned out by a son talking about his love for his father.
Thats what makes us human. We might have different idealogies but we all feel the pain.— Kishor Kaflé (@KishorKafle) December 5, 2018