On Saturday, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church honored former first lady Barbara Bush, who died earlier this week at the age of 92.
Bush is set to be laid to rest on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University, where she will be buried near her daughter, Pauline Robinson Bush, who was just 3 years old when she died of Leukemia in 1953.
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Barbara Bush, her children and husband Geroge H.W. Bush have been members of the congregation for decades now, back when it was merely a small-town Episcopal gathering of only 250 people.
And those such as Rev. Dr. Russ Levinson, a senior pastor at the church, admitted that the family’s humility was what made them so approachable and loved.
“President Bush was a very active lay leader in his early years here. But it was not uncommon to see him serving coffee on Sunday morning,” Levinson said. “Both of them taught in our Sunday school program. Both of them been involved in our outreach ministries.”
Since the time of its inception, the congregation has grown exponentially, creating a greater need for space and adhering to demands from parishioners for a “more traditional” church service, according to Fox 26.
“It’s the largest Episcopal Church in (the) United States … the largest expression of Anglicanism in North America,” Levinson said. “We’re just shy of 9,300 members and some our average Sunday attendance is probably between 1,800 to 2,000 average weekly attendance is about 2,500 to 2,700 because with midweek services.”
That growth only led to the former first couple exhibiting their generosity even further.
“There are plenty of times when we were really crowded, which is a great problem as a church,” Levinson said. “And you would see the president or Mrs. Bush or both of them get up and offer their seat to somebody else or scoot over so that people can squeeze in.”
And the former first lady’s generosity hasn’t been lost on those who loved her dearly, as her passing has brought them to bring up memories of the beloved woman.
In the first public comment he’s made since her passing on Tuesday, former President George H.W. Bush admitted that he used to tease his wife about her generosity, stating that it gave him a “complex.”
“I always knew Barbara was the most beloved woman in the world, and in fact, I used to tease her that I had a complex about that fact,” said Bush, who suggested that people were naturally drawn to his wife and her compassion.
Bush referred to his wife as “The Enforcer,” a label given as she ran the household while he pursued his career first in the oil business in Texas and then politically, and stated that the memory of her love during such a hard time is “lifting us all up.”
The couple’s son, former President George W. Bush, spoke at his presidential library to an audience on Wednesday and stated that Barbara Bush was “funny to the end,” and recalled one particular conversation they’d had on the phone before her passing.
“The day before she died, I said ‘Mom, I just want you to know you’ve been a fabulous mother and I love you dearly.’” Bush said. “And she said, ‘I want you to know that you’re my favorite son — on the phone.’”
“I hope you don’t feel sorry for any of us, particularly me,” he added, saying that his mother was at peace, which left him to be at peace. “She believes in an afterlife and was joyously looking forward to that afterlife.”
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