WASHINGTON — The nation’s capital embraced George H.W. Bush in death Monday with solemn ceremony and high tributes to his service and decency, as the remains of the 41st president took their place in the Capitol rotunda for three days of mourning and praise by the political elite and everyday citizens alike.
With Bush’s casket atop the Lincoln Catafalque, first used for Abraham Lincoln’s 1865 funeral, dignitaries came forward to honor the Texan whose efforts for his country extended three quarters of a century from World War II through his final years as an advocate for volunteerism and relief for people displaced by natural disaster.
President from 1989 to 1993, Bush died Friday at age 94.
In an invocation opening Monday evening’s ceremony, the U.S. House chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J Conroy, praised Bush’s commitment to public service, from Navy pilot to congressman, U.N. ambassador, envoy to China and then CIA director before being elected vice president and then president.
“Here lies a great man,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, and “a gentle soul. ... His legacy is grace perfected.”
Vice President Mike Pence and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell also spoke. President Donald Trump did not attend, but he and first lady Melania Trump came to the Capitol later Monday to pay tribute. They stood in front of the casket with their eyes closed for a few moments, before Trump saluted the casket.
Political combatants set aside their fights to honor a Republican who led in a less toxic era and at times found commonality with Democrats despite sharp policy disagreements. Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, past and incoming House speaker, exchanged a warm hug with George W. Bush and came away dabbing her face. Bush himself seemed to be holding back tears.
Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, placed wreaths in the short ceremony before the rotunda was to be opened to the public. It was to remain open overnight.
Sent off from Texas with a 21-gun salute, Bush’s casket was carried to Joint Base Andrews outside the capital city aboard an aircraft that often serves as Air Force One and designated “Special Air Mission 41” in honor of Bush’s place on the chronological list of presidents. His eldest son, former President George W. Bush, and others from the family traveled on the flight from Houston.
Cannon fire roared again outside the Capitol as the sun sank and the younger President Bush stood with his hand over his heart, watching the casket’s procession up the steps.
Bush was remembered just feet away from what he called “Democracy’s front porch,” the west-facing steps of the Capitol where he was sworn in as president.
He will lie in state in the Capitol for public visitation through Wednesday. An invitation-only funeral service, which the Trumps will attend, is set for Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral.
Although Bush’s funeral services are suffused with the flourishes accorded presidents, by his choice they will not include a formal funeral procession through downtown Washington.
On Sunday, students, staff and visitors had flocked to Bush’s presidential library on the campus of Texas A&M University, with thousands of mourners paying their respects at a weekend candlelight vigil at a nearby pond and others contributing to growing flower memorials at Bush statues at both the library and a park in downtown Houston.
“I think he was one of the kindest, most generous men,” said Marge Frazier, who visited the downtown statue Sunday while showing friends from California around.
After services in Washington, Bush will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church before burial Thursday at his family plot on the library grounds. His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953 at age 3.
Trump has ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.
Bush’s passing puts him back in the Washington spotlight after more than two decades living the relatively low-key life of a former president. His death also reduces membership in the ex-presidents’ club to four: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
One of Bush’s major achievements was assembling the international military coalition that liberated the tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait from invading neighbor Iraq in 1991. The war lasted just 100 hours. He also presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
He was denied a second term by Arkansas Gov. Clinton, who would later become a close friend. The pair worked together to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and of Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.
“Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton of all people?” he joked in 2005.
In a recent essay, Clinton declared of Bush: “I just loved him.”
The U.S. Postal Service will not deliver regular mail on Dec. 5, which has been declared a National Day of Mourning in remembrance of former President George H.W. Bush.
President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order to close federal agencies on Wednesday, except for those necessary for national security, defense or other essential duties.
The Postal Service will suspend regular mail deliveries, retail services and administrative office activity on Wednesday.
“We will provide limited package delivery service on that day to ensure that our network remains fluid and we do not experience any impacts to our package delivery operations that might negatively affect our customers or business partners during the remainder of our busy holiday season,” stated an announcement from the agency.
State and county offices will be open Wednesday. The County Commission meeting will be held as scheduled at 1:30 p.m.
“Elko County praises and honors President George H. W. Bush for his dedicated service to our country, both in the military and in the political arena,” said Elko County Manager Rob Stokes.
WINNEMUCCA – Two deer hunters who spent three days and nights stuck in a northern Nevada valley were rescued following a search that included Civil Air Patrol squadrons from Elko and Humboldt counties.
Joe and Kim Hess of Elko were driving in Lovely Valley, on the upper side of Bilk Creek, when their pickup got stuck in the mud on the afternoon of Oct. 30.
The Elko County Composite Squadron was called to assist on Nov. 2, according to Timothy Vaughan, a 2nd Lieutenant and public affairs officer for the Humboldt County Composite Squadron. Elko squadron commander Maj. Diana Jones, in her role as mission planning chief, launched pilot Major Curtis Jones, mission observer Col. Kelly Howard and mission scanner 1st Lt. Teddy Leigh in the squadron’s Cessna 182 to join the search centering in the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Unit 31 near Orovada.
Meanwhile, information received by the HCSO from the Civil Air Patrol’s national Cell Phone Forensics Team narrowed the search area significantly, Vaughan said. A family member of the Hesses called a civilian commercial pilot, Angelo Root, to assist in the search.
Root, also a resident of Orovada, was familiar with the search area, Vaughan said.
Flying his personal Cessna 140, Root located the missing couple – who were in good shape — about one hour after take-off. As he circled overhead, Root was able to direct Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies to the couples’ aid 45 minutes after his initial sighting.
The Hesses had spent three days and nights without cellphone service, and without seeing any other hunters.
The Elko flight crew was notified of the rescue by CAP radio operators, and safely returned to Elko Regional Airport.
ELKO – A Utah man allegedly gathering up packages from doorsteps at an apartment complex was arrested after a resident reported catching him in the act.
Police were called to the Ruby Vista Apartments at about 5 p.m. Nov. 28 when a resident got into a scuffle with a man later identified as Randall A. Lee, 34, of American Fork. Lee allegedly stacked up a dozen packages next to a car that had a female accomplice inside, according to Elko Police Lt. Mike Palhegyi.
When the resident confronted Lee he allegedly raised his fist and started swinging, while the female began to drive away in the vehicle. The resident tried to stop her and was struck. She drove away, leaving the pile of packages behind.
Palhegyi said the resident then chased Lee on foot. When police arrived they took Lee into custody near Interstate 80.
An officer located the vehicle about an hour and half later parked at Fourth and Water streets.
Palhegyi cautioned residents to do what they can to secure package deliveries during the holiday season.
“This time of year there is a lot of potential for package theft,” he said. “Unfortunately they are targets of opportunity.”
Homeowners and renters may want to have packages delivered to their place of work, or they could install doorbell cameras for security.
Lee was booked on charges of battery and petit larceny. His bail was listed at $2,280.
ELKO – An Elko man died Friday afternoon in a crash on Mountain City Highway.
Scott McKay, 58, was driving north in a 2012 Dodge pickup about 12 miles north of town when his vehicle drifted off the road and overturned.
The crash occurred at about 12:30 p.m. According to the Nevada Department of Transportation there were no adverse driving conditions from the weather at that time.
Nevada Highway Patrol troopers responded to the crash but have been unable to determine why the vehicle went off the road.
McKay, who was wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene.