The body of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush is carried to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University in Texas, the United States, Dec. 6, 2018. Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush was buried Thursday at his family plot behind the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University. (Xinhua/Steven Song)
HOUSTON, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- In a drizzling rain, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush was buried Thursday at his family plot behind the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University.
Closed to media, the Bush family privately laid their loved one to rest alongside Barbara Bush, the former president's wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia at the age of three.
The final journey of the 41st president was taken by a Union Pacific locomotive 4141 which carried his body from Houston to the burial site.
With the presidential seal and the words "George Bush 41 Presidential Library and Museum" printed along its side, the two-locomotive, 11-car train was painted with sleek lines in blue, gray and white, to evoke Air Force One.
It was specially designed in Bush's honor by Union Pacific and was unveiled near his library as part of an exhibition in 2005. It has been at work across the country since then.
During the two-and-half-hour ride, the train was welcomed by thousands of people along the rail tracks, paying respects to the late president and experiencing history. Tears in eyes and flags in hands, people were waving and taking photos when the train whistled, slowly passing by.
It was Bush himself who decided to take his final journey on a train. The procession falls in line with a long history of U.S. presidential funeral trains that transported the bodies to their places of burial, according to Union Pacific. They included Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.
Bush was very involved with the railroad and he used to talk about fond memories he had traveling with his family on trains, local media reported.
REMEMBERED BY FAMILIES AND FRIENDS
Earlier on Thursday, an 80-minute funeral of George H.W. Bush was held at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, reflecting his patriotism, faith and humor. Bush family members and friends as well as Bush's favorite sports and country music stars attended the service.
Bush was remembered as a "charter member of the Greatest Generation". James A. Baker III, Bush's chief political compatriot and friend of more than 60 years, said during a eulogy: "He possessed the classic virtues of our civilization and of his faith, the same virtues that express what is really best about our country."
Bush's eldest grandson, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, recalled his grandfather's dedication to family. "In our times together, our big, wonderful and competitive family saw the goodness that led to his greatness," he said.
Born in 1924, Bush joined the U.S. Navy upon finishing high school in 1942. After the World War II, he was enrolled at Yale University and got a degree in economics. Bush was elected U.S. president in 1988 as the successor to Ronald Reagan.
Bush passed away on Friday at his home in Houston, Texas. A state funeral was held at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, four other living former U.S. presidents, together with dignitaries from across the country and foreign leaders, attended the state funeral.
After the state funeral in Washington, Bush's remains was flown back to Houston later on Wednesday to lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church.
From Wednesday night through early Thursday morning, thousands of Houstonians lined up outside the Church to bid a personal farewell to the late president who called Houston "home" for the past five decades. Around 11,000 people paid their respects.
Julie Mercado and her son waited for more than an hour to board a bus that would take them to the church. "I want to pay my respects to him, a kind and generous man, a role model of society," she said. "It was our privilege to have him here in Houston."
IMPRINT ON U.S.-CHINA TIES
The former president served as head of the U.S. Liaison Office in China between 1974 and 1975, and witnessed and promoted the historic development of U.S.-China relations in the past decades.
"He is a statesman of vision, he'll be remembered for his role in improving the U.S.-China relations," Fred Teng, president of America China Public Affairs Institute, told Xinhua via phone on Wednesday.
Teng said he was very fortunate to have had personal interactions with Bush since he volunteered for the latter's presidential campaign in 1988.
According to Teng, he was very much surprised and moved that Bush and his wife showed up at one of his campaign gatherings running for New York City Council in 1991.
"I'm going to Houston at the end of this month to pay my respect to the president," Teng said.
Roger Lou, 70, a retiree living in Flushing, the New York borough of Queens, said Bush is among the U.S. presidents that are best known in China.
Bush was especially known for his bike rides through Beijing with his wife Barbara in the mid-1970s, Lou said.
"I am very saddened to know his death. He has done lots of contribution to the enhancement of the U.S.-China relations which is essential for the two countries and the wold as a whole," said Lou.
The time Bush spent in China and his intensive interaction with both the leadership and people of China "had a profound effect on his feelings for and views on China for the rest of his life," said David Firestein, founding executive director of China Public Policy Center at the University of Texas at Austin, in a statement sent to Xinhua.
"His unwavering commitment to the long-term development of the U.S.-China relationship was both wise and courageous," said Firestein.
"Many of the successes logged in the U.S.-China relationship over the last twenty-five years have their roots in President Bush's skillful and far-sighted handling of the relationship at a difficult time," he said.
U.S.-China Partnerships, a Houston-based organization promoting ties between the two countries, also issued a statement on the passing of Bush.
Charles C. Foster, chairman of U.S.-China Partnerships, said in the statement that the organization "will always remember his extraordinary contribution to U.S.-China relations."
"Even in his post-presidency, President Bush continued to speak out on the importance of U.S.-China issues and regularly hosted visiting Chinese officials at his home and offices in Houston," the statement added.