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Trump absent as past presidents, family and friends farewell Barbara Bush

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Past presidents - minus Donald Trump - family and friends came together to bid farewell to Barbara Bush, the matriarch of one of America's most prominent political dynasties, at a funeral service in Texas.

Ms Bush - wife to the 41st US president and mother to the 43rd - died Tuesday at her home in Texas aged 92, surrounded by her family.

The invitation-only service at St Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston was attended by four former presidents: George H.W. Bush - Barbara's husband of 73 years - their son George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as other former senior officials.

First Lady Melania Trump arrives at St. Martin's Episcopal Church without husband, President Donald Trump.
First Lady Melania Trump arrives at St. Martin's Episcopal Church without husband, President Donald Trump.
AAP

First Lady Melania Trump attended but her husband President Donald Trump did not, with the White House saying his decision to stay in Washington was taken "to avoid disruptions due to added security."

"My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family," Trump wrote on Twitter, saying he planned to watch the funeral ceremony.

Former president Jimmy Carter was overseas and unable to attend.

Known for her trademark faux pearls and tart-tongued comments about life in and out of Washington - but also her deep loyalty to family and self-deprecating humour - Barbara Bush was in many ways a figure more popular among ordinary Americans than her high-flying husband and sons.

She was also remembered as a woman who leavened a strong sense of decency and honour with a self-deprecating wit she employed to great effect.

Former President George W. Bush and his father former President George H.W. Bush are joined by family and friends.
Former President George W. Bush and his father former President George H.W. Bush are joined by family and friends.
AAP

 "She was candid and comforting, steadfast and straightforward, honest and loving," said the historian and author Jon Meacham, who wrote a biography of George HW Bush and was one of three eulogists whom Barbara Bush herself selected before her death.

"Barbara Bush and George Bush put country above party, the common good above political gain and service to others above the settling of scores," he said.

Barbara Bush's longtime friend, Susan Baker, the wife of former Secretary of State James Baker, described her in a eulogy as a "tough but loving enforcer" whose 73-year marriage to her husband was a real-life fairy tale.

George HW Bush would write a letter to his wife on each wedding anniversary, Jeb Bush said, before reading aloud one such letter from 1994, a year after his father left the White House.

"I was very happy on that day in 1945, but I'm even happier today," he read, as his 93-year-old father squeezed his eyes shut and wept. "You have given me joy that few men know ... I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara's husband."

As the service ended, Bush's grandsons bore her casket out of the church, with George W. Bush pushing his father in a wheelchair directly behind it.

Having undergone heart surgery in 2009, she was treated for years for Graves' disease, a thyroid condition.

As her health failed in recent days, she was moved into comfort care at her home in Houston.

Barbara Bush will be buried on the grounds of the George HW Bush Library and Museum at Texas A&M University in College Station, next to her daughter Robin, who died of leukaemia at the age of three.

Mrs Bush is survived by five children, 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.  

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