NISKAYUNA — Several years ago, when now retired state Sen. Hugh Farley completed a bike ride from Amsterdam, Netherlands, into the country of Belgium, he shortly thereafter received a note from President George Herbert Walker Bush.
“I was the oldest guy to every do it. He picked it up from the papers, and he wrote me a note saying how proud he was of me, staying active and so forth. He wrote me a note congratulating me on being so physically active at an advanced age,” Farley said, of his friend of 40 years. “I must have received close to 20 notes and letters from him over the years. When I was at conventions and things, he would walk through a crowd to talk to me. I just loved him, he was a great guy.”
Farley said he was a New York state delegate for George H.W. Bush during the 1980 Republican primary for president and was instrumental in helping to bring Bush to Schenectady in 1988 when he ran for president.
“I was the only guy [for Bush] in upstate New York who won (in 1980). The Reagan delegates swept the state pretty much. I stayed loyal to George Bush because I knew him,” he said.
He said he visited the White House when Bush was president several times and learned many things watching the former president’s political career.
“He was a very kind and thoughtful man. You never saw him attack anybody. I like to say I modeled myself after him somewhat, I never attacked my opponents. He was a role model in politics for me, and a very dear friend.”
On Wednesday, Farley was positioned in one of the front row seats at the funeral service for the 41st president, near TV host Greta Van Susteren and conservative pundit William “Bill” Bennett, who served in Bush’s administration as director of the office of National Drug Control Policy.
“We got there early and they gave us great seats,” Farley said.
Farley said he’s seen other solemn and grand state funerals and memorials, including the one for President John F. Kennedy while he was attending law school in the Washington D.C. area in 1963, but in all of his experience he’s never seen an event more impressive than the service for George H.W. Bush.
“This funeral was one of the most impressive things that I’ve ever seen in my whole political life, absolutely magnificent,” he said.
Farley said he was impressed by the eulogies from author Jon Meacham and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He laughed at the eulogy from “always funny” retired Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson and was brought nearly to tears by the eulogy from the 41st president’s son President George W. Bush.
Farley said he believes through his discussions with insiders at the funeral that it was President George H.W. Bush’s decision that Trump be allowed at his funeral, despite having publicly stated he voted for Hillary Clinton, the wife of President Bill Clinton, the man who defeated him in 1992.
“The Bush family and President Trump have been at odds because of Trump’s rough treatment of [former Florida governor] Jeb Bush, but George H.W. Bush insisted that President Trump be at his funeral. That shows you the grace of the man. He was class,” Farley said.
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents the 21st Congressional District, also attended the funeral. She posted a tweet in praise of Bush: “I was honored to attend today’s service celebrating the life of President George Herbert Walker Bush. The ceremony & tributes were incredibly moving and a testament to his extraordinary life of character, service above self, and love of country and family.”