- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2007

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lady Bird Johnson made a final trip yesterday to her beloved wildflower center, where friends and family followed the former first lady’s casket into a gallery for a private memorial service.

About 180 people gathered at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where her coffin, draped in white cloth with blue embroidery, rested in front of a large portrait of Mrs. Johnson in a field of flowers. Nearby, two vases held lavender-hued bluebells, her favorite flower.

“We are here to let Lady Bird go and to celebrate her glad release,” said the Rev. Stephen Kinney, former rector at Mrs. Johnson’s home church, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg. “This is our time to say goodbye.”

The service for the 94-year-old widow of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson ended with a song written for her.

Daughter Lynda Johnson Robb watched from the front row, swaying to the music and smiling. She had walked in with her sister, Luci Baines Johnson, as service members representing every branch of the U.S. military carried their mother’s casket.

Mrs. Johnson, who died Wednesday, will be buried next to her husband at the couple’s central Texas ranch at her request. She also wanted her casket to follow the same path his did 34 years ago to the LBJ Library and Museum.

Early yesterday afternoon, the casket arrived at the museum as bagpipes played “Amazing Grace.”

With a crowd of about 250 looking on, her daughters and other family members followed the casket into the library, where Mrs. Johnson was to lie in repose until this morning.

Luci Baines Johnson greeted people waiting outside with hugs and handshakes.

“My mother wouldn’t want people standing in the heat out there,” she said. “She would want them to come in. This is their library.”

Mary Vidani, 57, was among those waiting at the library.

“She was up there with the Beatles and Eleanor Roosevelt,” Miss Vidani said of Mrs. Johnson’s place in her life.

“I always wanted to meet her, and this is as close as I can get,” Miss Vidani said. “I cried for her. She died on my birthday.”

Pete Pollard, 68, a Vietnam veteran from Austin, remembered shaking Mrs. Johnson’s hand at a White House Christmas event.

“It’s something I will never forget,” he said. “She even hugged my sister. She was a real nice lady.”

The service and viewing were to be followed by other ceremonies throughout the weekend. An invitation-only funeral today will be televised, and Mrs. Johnson is to be buried tomorrow at the ranch near Stonewall.

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