Barbara Bush, former First Lady, has passed away at age 92 in her home in Texas. She leaves behind her husband of 73 years, former President George H. W. Bush, along with five children, 17 grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and her brother, Scott Pierce, as well as the spouses of those children and grandchildren.
According to the Bush family, the former First Lady died of complications from congestive heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Born Babrara Pierce in 1925, she was raised in Rye, New York and attended boarding school there. When she was 16-years-old she met George Bush at a Christmas dance. The couple would later get engaged, and in 1945 the pair married while George, a WWII Navy bomber pilot, was on leave. Their marriage of 73 years is distinguished as the longest presidential marriage in American history.
“I married the first man I ever kissed,” she told Time Magazine in 1989. “When I tell this to my children, they just about throw up.”
Throughout her life and her husband’s political career as Congressman, Vice President and President, Barbara Bush was known for her sharp wit, warm demeanor and grace. With her white hair and trademark pearl necklace, she was one of the most beloved and admired women in America. President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in her memory.
Two days prior to her death, Bush family spokesman Jim McGrath issued a statement that Barbara Bush was no longer seeking medical treatment, but rather receiving comfort care at home with her husband.
“It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others. She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving,” the statement read.
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The First Lady was a champion of literacy, believing that many of society’s problems could be cured if more people could read, raising their standard of living and promoting education. Both during and after leaving the White House, Mrs. Bush dedicated herself to promoting family literacy. She established the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in 1989, and since then raise more than a billion dollars for the cause together with her husband.
“The American Dream is about equal opportunity for everyone who works hard. If we don’t give everyone the ability to simply read and write, then we aren’t giving everyone an equal chance to succeed,” Barbara Bush said.
She was a champion for literacy her entire life, and remained a public figure in the years after her time as First Lady. Barbara Bush was also only one of two women to be both the husband and mother of an American President. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.
“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, a children, or a parent,” Barbara Bush said in her 1990 commencement address at Wesley College. “Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside your house.”
It was the mixture of her elevated grace and common-sense approachability which endeared her to the American public. Her trademark pearl necklace, for instance, was an example of that. She first wore the triple-strand false pearl necklace to George H. W. Bush’s inauguration, and she later admitted that she chose the necklace simple to hide the wrinkles in her neck.
“Barbara Bush challenged each of us to build a better world by empowering people through literacy,” former Secretary of State James Baker III said in a written statement. “As only one of two women in American history who can be called First Lady and First Mother, she was matriarch of a family that remains as dedicated to public service as it was to politics.”
“I don’t have a fear of death for my precious George or for myself because I know that there is a great God,” Barbara said in a 2013 interview.
According to the family, husband George remained at her bedside throughout Barbara’s final days, the couple holding hands.
Rest in peace, Barbara Bush.
Watch this touching tribute video to Barbara Bush:
Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.