“One of the reasons I made the most important decision of my life, to marry George Bush, is because he made me laugh,” said Barbara Bush at the 1990 Wellesley Commencement Ceremony.
“It’s true, sometimes we’ve laughed through our tears, but that shared laughter has been one of our strongest bonds.”
On April 17, 2018, former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away at age 92. Barbara had accomplished so much during her lifetime, yet it is her devotion to her husband and family that will be most remembered by many Americans.
Barbara and her husband, George H.W. Bush, were married for an incredible 73 years, longer than any other presidential couple in history.
Barbara and George first met at a dance in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1941. Both were in different boarding schools at the time, so they dated long-distance for a year and a half before getting engaged. But soon after, George went off to fight in World War II with the Navy.
“She was wild about him,” George’s brother Johnathan said. “And for George, if anyone wants to be wild about him, it’s fine with him.”
On the day their engagement notice appeared in the newspaper, George wrote Barbara a letter:
“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. Goodnight, my beautiful. Every time I say beautiful, you about kill me, but you’ll have to accept it.”
During the war, George’s plane was shot down. The terrible news reached Barbara, who didn’t know if he was dead or alive for over a month. When he finally returned, they got married right away, on January 6, 1945.
Throughout their lengthy union, George and Barbara had their share of triumphs and heartbreak. They had six children together, George, Pauline Robinson (called Robin), John Ellis (Jeb), Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy; but the couple lost Robin to leukemia in 1953 at the age of 3.
During Robin’s cancer treatment, Barbara says her hair dramatically turned from brown to white. Known for being a humble, practical woman, Barbara never considered dying her hair to look younger; lending her the trademark grandmotherly look that we all came to recognize during her tenure as First Lady.
As for her trademark pearl necklace? She once confessed that she started wearing them to hide the wrinkles in her neck!
As George’s political career took off, Barbara continued to provide a strong foundation for the Bush family in their new home of Washington, D.C. When he became the 41st President of the United States, Barbara chose to focus on increasing literacy in America.
A devoted wife and mother, Barbara managed the household during George’s business and political careers. The family moved twenty-nine times before landing in the White House — can you imagine how organized she must have needed to be to facilitate these moves?
In the past year as her health declined, Barbara made the decision to limit her treatment to comfort only medicines. Her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, said the family is at peace about losing their matriarch.
“She’s with my grandpa, the man she’s loved for over 73 years.”
“They are surrounded by family, but I think the fact that they’re together and that he still says, ‘I love you Barbie’ every night is pretty remarkable.”
Former president George W. Bush shared this loving tribute to his mother on Facebook:
“My dear mother has passed on at age 92. Laura, Barbara, Jenna, and I are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was. Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I’m a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother. Our family will miss her dearly, and we thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.”
As for the love she shared with George, she never wavered in her opinion that marrying him was the best decision she ever made. In a letter Barbara wrote earlier this year, she wrote:
“I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago. Also, George Bush has given me the world. He is the best–thoughtful and loving.”
Barbara and George’s long marriage is inspirational for us all. We could all learn a thing or two about life, love, and the importance of maintaining your sense of humor, from this strong union.
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