George P. Bush remembered his grandfather George H.W. Bush on Thursday as a family man — one who was as content conjuring up an imaginary boat with his grandchildren as he was campaigning for president.
At the former president’s memorial service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, the Texas land commissioner, 42, spoke lovingly of George H.W., who died at age 94 on Friday.
“Today I stand before you as the oldest grandson of the man I simply knew as Gampy,” George P. started. “George Herbert Walker Bush was the most gracious, most decent, most humble man that I will ever know.”
“When he began running for president in 1988, my grandfather released a campaign book outlining his views for his future,” he shared. “The book opened with a letter to a grandson. It was addressed to me and recounted some of our recent experiences together in Maine.”
“‘P,’ the letter read, ‘I’ve been thinking about it a lot. The most fun was the big rock boat, climbing out on it, watching you and Noelle playing on it,'” George P. continued, mentioning his sister, Jeb Bush’s second child with wife Columba. “‘Near the end of summer, when the moon was full, the tides were high, there was that special day when it almost seemed like the boat was real.'”
“Here’s a man gearing up for the role of a lifetime and yet his mind went back to his family,” he explained.
George P. recalled George H.W. as an outdoorsman and avid eater.
“We all grew up in awe of my grandfather, a larger-than-life figure who we’d catch fly-fishing off the rocks of Maine, talking up where the bluefish were running,” he said. “He’d be the first to host intense horseshoe match-ups among family, Secret Service or any willing head of state.”
“His typical spread included barbecue, tacos, tamales, pork rinds with hot sauce with a healthy compliment of Blue Bell ice cream and Klondike bars,” he added. “Always the competitor, each night Gampy challenged all the grandkids to the coveted first to sleep award.”
He noted the “letters of encouragement” that the 41st commander-in-chief sent to his grandchildren. “Gampy wrote an email to us all saying, ‘The only thing wrong with the last five months is that none of you were here enough. Next year, promise this old Gampster that you’ll spend more time with us here by the sea.'”
“‘I think of you all an awful lot,'” the note said. “‘If you need me, I’m here for you because I love you very much.'”
“Today, after 94 years, the heavy hand of time has claimed the life of my Gamps,” George P. concluded. “It is the honor of a lifetime to share his name. God bless you, Gampy. Until we meet again, maybe out on that rock boat we built together.”
On Twitter on Saturday, George P. remembered George H.W. as not just a “great man” but a “good man.”
“My grandfather was the greatest man I ever knew. His life spanned the American Century — he fought in World War II … took part in the Texas oil boom … served out a distinguished career in public service including serving as president during the final days of the Cold War,” he wrote.
“Along the way, he married the love of his life and was a father to six, including a president and two governors. But to me, he will always be Gampy. The man who taught me to fish in Maine, to throw a horseshoe and to swing a baseball bat lefty,” he said.
“He was more than a great man; he was a good man,” George P. finished. “His courage was matched by his compassion; and his dedication to country was equaled only by his devotion to his family. Gampy, we love you and we will miss you. But we will never forget you.”
On Wednesday, all living presidents and first ladies — Donald Trump and Melania Trump, Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. and Laura Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter — gathered at the National Cathedral to pay their respects in Washington, D.C.
In a moving eulogy, George W. said that his father “was close to perfect” to the family that loved him.