Star athletes and prominent Houstonians fill church to celebrate President George HW Bush

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Thursday, December 6, 2018
Pres. George HW Bush honored by notable guests in Houston
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Here's a look at the notable guests who came to pay tribute to the 41st president on Thursday in Houston.

HOUSTON, Texas -- President George H.W. Bush once wondered who would come his funeral.

But if the people who arrived for his final ceremony Thursday at St. Martin's Episcopal Church are any indication, the late president had nothing to worry about.

Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, J.J. Watt, Chuck Norris, longtime ABC13 anchor Dave Ward, Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Houston Astros Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, former Astro and executive advisor to the team Nolan Ryan, current Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and his wife, Houston Dash star Kealia Ohai and former Mayor of Houston Bill White were all seen walking into the church before the service.

Mattress Mack says he first got to know the president through tennis tournaments at the Westside Tennis Club.

"The thing I'll always remember about him, he always had the same respect for the parking valet and the waiter as he did the million dollar donor," Mattress Mack told ABC13.

The president likely shared fond memories with other guests he personally invited to his funeral service including Schwarzenegger, who recalled earlier this week how he went sledding with him at Camp David in 1991.

Schwarzenegger explained that Bush tried to teach him how to sled, and in the process, they ended up crashing into Barbara, the president's wife.

"I was only used to sledding down with Austrian sleds, which you direct kind of with your feet. So we went down totally out of control," Schwarzenegger said.

'Arnold, turn!' Schwarzenegger recalls sledding with President Bush - and crashing into Barbara

The president also selected the artists he wanted to perform at his funeral. That included The Oak Ridge Boys who sang "Amazing Grace."

They said during the ceremony, "We'll sing for our president."

Following their performance, country singer Reba McEntire provided a rendition of "The Lord's Prayer."

Former Houston Rockets stars Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutumbo, Clyde Drexler and Yao Ming were also part of the high-profile sports figures who filled the church for the ceremony.

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George P. Bush touches the flag-draped casket after giving a eulogy during a funeral for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018.
Mark Humphrey/AP Photo

About 1,200 people attended and it's no surprise that prominent athletes were in that crowd.

The president loved Houston sports teams and was frequently seen at Texans and Astros games with his beloved late wife.

RELATED: President George H. W. Bush remembered for his love of Houston sports

Astros owner Jim Crane spoke to ABC13 as he headed inside the church about the time President George H.W. Bush joined his son George W. Bush before Game 5 of the World Series in 2017.

George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch after receiving the ball from his father.

"They were a little bit of good luck. The fifth game, (he) showed up with W to throw out the first pitch and that put us over the edge," Crane said.

Fans will remember that tense Game 5 well where the Astros went on to win 13-12 in 10 innings.

Along with the athletes, David Dewhurst, former lieutenant governor of Texas, and Dr. Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, former United States Secretary of Education Rod Paige, and socialite and philanthropist Lynn Wyatt were also spotted.

Thursday's service caps four days of events for Bush 41, which included a state funeral at Washington's National Cathedral on Wednesday.

After the private service, the president's motorcade left the church and will travel to Spring, where his casket will be loaded onto a custom train, Bush 4141, named for the president and painted in the likeness of Air Force One.

It will transport the president's body to College Station, where he will be buried next to Barbara and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953.


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