As more than 3,000 people gathered Wednesday at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. for the funeral of President George H.W. Bush, people across Galveston County also paused for a few moments to recognize the 41st President.
One of them was Maureen Patton, executive director of The Grand 1894 Opera House — the Galveston venue where the Bushes had occasionally taken in a show over the past 20 years.
For years, people who attended performances by the Oak Ridge Boys at the Grand have waited in anticipation to see whether George and Barbara Bush would appear in Box A. The country and gospel quartet were Bush’s favorite act and had been performing for Bush since the 1980s.
On Wednesday, the group sang “Amazing Grace” at Bush’s funeral.
Bush would visit backstage with the group before the Galveston performances, Patton said. He even signed a piano top that hangs in a dressing room at The Grand in gold Sharpie, she said. The Bushes also were honorary sponsors of The Grand’s 100th anniversary celebrations, Patton said.
Patton remembered Bush’s visits fondly.
“He went out of this way to be gracious, to acknowledge somebody, and to remember somebody,” she said.
The Grand visits weren’t Bush’s only connections to Galveston County. He campaigned in the county as far back as 1970, when he was running for U.S. Senate.
In 2008, after Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston, he and Bill Clinton visited the island and toured the damage. The presidents’ coastal relief fund would later donate money to help repair Rosenberg Library and the Crystal Beach Fire Department.
While Bush’s funeral aired on TV Wednesday morning, local people recognized his death in small ways.
The University of Texas Medical Branch held a moment of silence on its campus, while Galveston County closed all its offices in recognition of the National Day of Mourning.
At Stewart Elementary School in Kemah, students wore colorful socks in honor of Bush. Bush became known for wearing colorful socks after he became confined to a wheelchair in 2007 because of Parkinson’s disease. He was buried in a pair of socks bearing a picture of a phalanx of jet planes.
SCHOOLS PRESENT THEIR PRIORITIES
It’s already a given that education issues will be near the top of the Texas Legislature’s to-do list during the coming legislative session.
Reforming the state’s school finance system, and doing away with the so-called “Robin Hood” system was one of the top priorities named by the Galveston County School Consortium.
At a meeting Monday, the consortium, which is made up of representatives from county school districts, published its full legislative agenda.
Along with the call for a more adequate and equitable school funding system, the consortium called for state officials to focus more on school safety and accountability.
On the safety side, the consortium wants the state to consider creating a fund to pay more for safety based on the number of students in a district, to make shooter lockdown drills mandatory and to enforce a ban on e-cigarette sales to minors.
The consortium also is seeking a change to the state’s A-F school rating system, which it calls “misleading.”
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush was scheduled to appear in Galveston this week to discuss a coastal barrier proposal with local political and business leaders. That visit was canceled because of George H.W. Bush’s funeral. The commissioner is the late president’s grandson. ... Early voting in the runoff election in League City between Chris Gross and Chad Tressler begins Monday and runs through the end of the next week. Election Day is on Dec. 18. ... The Texas legislative session begins in 33 days, on Jan. 8.