Barbara Bush, wife and mother to presidents - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, September 28, 2021
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Barbara Bush, wife and mother to presidents

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SHE CAME TO ALASKA TO CAMPAIGN FOR HER HUSBAND

(Updated: Funeral arrangements: The George Bush Presidential Library Foundation website writes that Mrs. Bush will lie in repose from noon to midnight Friday at the church for those wishing to pay their respects. Invitation-only services are planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. Burial will be on the grounds of the Bush library at Texas A&M University in College Station, where the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Robin, who died in 1953 of leukemia, was buried.)

Former first lady Barbara Bush died Tuesday at her family’s west Houston home, her husband by her side. She was 92. Just two days earlier she had decided to not return to the hospital for care, knowing her time was near.

In American history, only one other First Lady — Abigail Adams — was both the wife of a president and the mother of another president. Between her husband George H.W. Bush and her son George W. Bush, the Bushes were in the White House for 12 years.

She was born in New York City on June 8, 1925, to Pauline and Marvin Pierce. Barbara and George H.W. Bush met at a Christmas party in Connecticut; he was a senior at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. and she was a 16-year-old boarding school student.

Barbara and George had been married for 73 years; in addition to her husband, she is survived by five of her children, 17 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and her brother, Scott Pierce. She and George lost their daughter Robin to leukemia when the girl was 3.

She was a devoted advocate for literacy. Her son Neil had dyslexia and she spent much of her life advocating for reading, forming the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which is still a strong and influential grant-making organization that advocates for reading.

She was also an advocate for people with AIDS, for cancer research, and was vocal on many other social issues.

Party activist Randy Ruedrich dined with Mrs. Bush when her husband was running for president in 1988. They ate at Elevation 92, which overlooked Ship Creek off of Third Avenue. Hope Nelson, president of the Alaska Federation of Republican Women; Jim Crawford, the Republican Party chairman; and Gloria Tokar, who was the manager of Don Young’s campaign, all attended, along with National Committeewoman Marilyn Paine and National Committeman Eldon Mulder.

The next day there was a community gathering near Fish Creek. Concerned about rain, they built a structure with a roof, but it wasn’t needed. Some 200 people attended the rally across from former Gov. Wally and Ermalee Hickel’s home.

“She was one of the easiest people to relate to that I have ever met,” Ruedrich said.

Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock recalled meeting Mrs. Bush in 1980 while she was campaigning for her husband in the Republican Primary.

“Firm, opinionated, and gracious,” is how he described her.

Opinionated she was. Although a lifelong Republican, she didn’t mince words about those who didn’t measure up. On the Larry King Show in 2010 she had this to say about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: “I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she’s very happy in Alaska, and I hope she’ll stay there.”

Of candidate Geraldine Ferraro, who ran against her husband for vice president in 1984: “I can’t say it, but it rhymes with ‘rich.'” She later apologized, and said the word she meant was “witch.”

And when in 2013 her son Jeb was considering a run for the White House, she said: “There are other people out there that are very qualified and we’ve had enough Bushes.”

In a speech to the graduating class of Wellesley College she said: “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, children, or a parent.”

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Suzanne, Mrs. Bush had one child that did not survive. She had a three year old daughter named Robin. The child died of leukemia. It’s an honest mistake but I thought you would want to know.

  • I remember fondly when Mrs. Bush came to town. My class came to the Alaska Republican Party Headquarters and helped stuff campaign mail. We all got to speak with her and I remember having an interview on tv about what is was like to meet the 2nd Lady. It was a very memorable experience. Holly Kelty (Hope Nelson’s daughter)

  • Barbara Bush was an amazing lady. Like her compatriot, Nancy Reagan, she was a fierce and constant advocate for her husband. Loyalty was unquestioned and honestly was obvious. Terri and I loved getting to know Barbara when she visited. What a great example for Americans that politics can be a positive and vital force for good in our country and the world.

    Jim Crawford
    Former Chairman
    Alaska Reagan and Bush Campaigns

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