Former President George H.W. Bush’s life and legacy were honored by those who eulogized him at his funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday.
The eulogists — Bush's son and former President George W. Bush, former Sen. Alan Simpson, historian and presidential biographer Jon Meacham and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney — remembered the former president's loyalty and sense of honor. But perhaps the most notable trait eulogists referred to was Bush’s dry sense of humor.
Below are highlights from each of the eulogists’ speeches, which drew both tears and moments of the laughter from the many people who attended the service of the "great and noble man” who died Friday at the age of 94.
Son and former President George W. Bush
During his eulogy, the 43rd president most notably revealed his father’s final words.
"I said, "Dad, I love you and you've been a wonderful father,'" he recalled as he delivered his eulogy. "And the last words he would ever say on Earth were, 'I love you, too.'"
"We're gonna miss you," George W. Bush said, adding his father’s “decency, sincerity and kind soul will stay with us forever."
But the former president also spent time telling the packed cathedral stories of his father’s distaste for vegetables — especially broccoli — and mediocre dancing skills.
“To us, he was close to perfect. But not totally perfect. His short game was lousy. He wasn’t exactly Fred Astaire on the dance floor. The man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. And by the way, he passed these genetic defects on to us,” George W. Bush said, adding his father also shared jokes via email with his circle of friends.
"His grading system for the quality of the joke was classic George Bush: The rare sevens and eights were considered huge winners, most of them off-color," the younger Bush said.
"We're gonna miss you. Your decency, sincerity and kind soul will stay with us forever,” he said.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who told Politico over the weekend that Bush asked him three years ago to speak at his funeral, shared tales of Bush's kindness at the service Wednesday.
“Many men of differing talents and skills have served as president, and many more will do so as the decades unfold, bringing new strength and glory to these United States of America,” Mulroney said. “And 50 or 100 years from now, as historians review the accomplishments and the context of all who have served as president, I believe it will be said that in the life of this country, the United States, which is, in my judgment, the greatest democratic republic that God has ever placed on the face of this earth, I believe it will be said that no occupant of the Oval Office was more courageous, more principled, and more honorable than George Herbert Walker Bush.”
“George Bush was a man of high accomplishment, but he also had a delightful sense of humor and was a lot of fun,” Mulroney went on, detailing a time Bush sat across from him at a NATO meeting in Brussels.
After listening to various world leaders speak, Bush, who had been taking “copious notes,” Mulroney said, finally put his pen down during a coffee break and approached the former prime minister.
“Brian, I've just learned the fundamental principle of international affairs,” Mulroney recalled Bush saying.
“I said, “what's that, George?” He said, “The smaller the country, the longer the speech,” he recalled.
Former Sen. Alan Simpson
Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., had a decades-long friendship with the president and was once on Bush’s list of potential running mates in 1988.
At the funeral Wednesday, Simpson, 87, said Bush was someone “you would’ve wanted on your side” and he never “hated anyone.”
Simpson also recalled a time Bush invited him to Camp David during a “dark period” in the former senator’s life.
“My life in Washington was rather tumultuous. I went from the A-social list to the Z and never came back to the A,” Simpson said, adding “at that time, his popularity rating was 93 percent. Mine was .93 percent.”
“There were staff members who told me not to do this,” Simpson said Bush told him. “But Al, this is about friendship and loyalty.”
“The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend George Bush – one of nature’s noblemen. His epitaph, perhaps just a single letter, the letter L for loyalty,” Simpson said. “It courses through his blood: loyalty to his country, loyalty to his family, loyalty to his friends, loyalty to the institutions of government and always, always, always a friend to his friends.”
“He was a man of such great humility,” he added. “Those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C. are not bothered by heavy traffic."
Presidential historian Jon Meacham
Presidential historian and biographer Jon Meacham, who spoke at Barbara Bush’s funeral in April, also shared a touching eulogy. In fact, he gave George H.W. Bush a preview of his remarks before the former president died, Fox News confirmed Wednesday. After hearing it, Bush replied, “That’s a lot about me, Jon.”
Meacham remembered Bush as an “imperfect” man who “left us a more perfect union.”
"George Herbert Walker Bush was America's last great soldier-statesman, a 20th-century founding father,” Meacham, who wrote a Bush biography, said in his eulogy.
But Meacham was also able to draw laughs from Bush’s children during his eulogy.
"It must be said that for a keenly intelligent statesman of stirring — almost unparalleled — private eloquence, public speaking was not exactly a strong suit," Meacham explained.
"Fluency in English ... is something that I'm often not accused of," Bush once said, Meacham recalled.
The biographer also shared a story of a time Bush mistakenly grabbed the hand of a department store mannequin while campaigning and asking for votes in New Hampshire.
"When he realized his mistake, he said 'Never know. Gotta ask,’” Meachem said, causing the crowd to chuckle.
Bush’s “life code,” Meacham said, was to "Tell the truth. Don't blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. [And] stay the course.”
The code is the "most American of creeds,” he added.
Fox News’ Jennifer Earl, Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.