By Alexander Santana
America lost a much beloved and admired first lady with the tragic passing of Barbara Bush, the wife of the 41st President George H.W. Bush and the mother of the 43rd President George W. Bush. Barbara Pierce Bush passed away on Tuesday, April 17th at the age of 92 surrounded by her family at her home in Houston, Texas. President George H.W. Bush’s spokeswoman, Jean Becker, stated that he “is broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years. He held her hand all day today and was at her side when (she) left this good earth.” A few days before her passing, a statement was released from a Bush family spokesman, Jim McGrath, saying that Mrs. Bush was in “failing health” and had been in and out of the hospital recently. The statement read in part that “following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors, Mrs. Bush, now age 92, has decided not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care.”
Known by many as the matriarch of the Bush family, Mrs. Bush was always there to support and defend her husband and children when criticized. Besides being only the second first lady to have both a husband and son be president, Mrs. Bush was also the mother of six children, George, Jeb, Marvin, Neil, Dorothy, and Robin who passed away of leukemia at the age of three in 1953. Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff, wrote in a Wall Street Journal article that “the children she raised are testimony to a mother who taught respect, integrity, hard work and faith and gave unconditional love.” When Mrs. Bush passed away she and President Bush had been married for 73 years, the longest-married couple in U.S. presidential history. She married President Bush in 1945 when she was just 19 and he was 20.
As the constant companion and confidant of her husband for over 70 years, Mrs. Bush witnessed him go on to hold several important positions in American government including President from 1989-1993, Vice President to Ronald Reagan from 1981-1989, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under Jimmy Carter, U.S. Ambassador to China under Gerald Ford, Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) under Richard Nixon, and U.S. Representative from Texas from 1967-1971. She would meet her future husband at a Christmas dance in 1941 at the Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut where President Bush had been raised. President Bush was the son of Connecticut’s future U.S. Senator Prescott Bush. At the time they met, President Bush was a senior at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. They became engaged 18 months later and shortly thereafter President Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy as the United States entered World War II. In 1943, as President Bush was serving as a young naval aviator and engaged to his future wife, he wrote a now famous letter displaying his love for her. The letter reads “I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you.”
During her years as First Lady and even after the White House, Mrs. Bush’s main cause in her life after her family was literacy. She founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in 1989 and continued to stay involved in its work even after her husband lost his 1992 re-election bid to then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. In her famous 1990 Wellesley College commencement address, Mrs. Bush stated “Believe in something larger than yourself… Get involved in some of the big ideas of our time. I chose literacy because I honestly believe that if more people could read, write and comprehend, we would be that much closer to solving so many of the problems that plague our nation and our society.”
She is survived by her 93-year-old husband, five children, fourteen grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. The American people will be able to visit Mrs. Bush when she lays in repose between noon and midnight on Friday, April 20th in St. Martin’s Church in Houston, and a private funeral service will take place on Saturday, also at St. Martin’s Church. First Lady Melania Trump as well as former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton will be attending the Saturday funeral service. Former President and First Lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter will not be able to attend because he is on an overseas trip and she is recovering from a recent intestinal surgery. President Donald Trump will not be attending the service “to avoid disruptions due to added security, and out of respect for the Bush Family and friends attending the service” according to the White House. Mrs. Bush will be buried in a family plot beside her late daughter Robin at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum near Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.