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Barbara Bush Dies at Age 92            04/18 06:24

   HOUSTON (AP) -- Barbara Bush, the snowy-haired first lady and mother of a 
president whose plainspoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more 
popular at times than her husband, President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday, a 
family spokesman said. She was 92.

   Mrs. Bush brought a grandmotherly style to buttoned-down Washington, often 
appearing in her trademark fake pearl chokers and displaying no vanity about 
her white hair and wrinkles.

   "What you see with me is what you get. I'm not running for president --- 
George Bush is," she said at the 1988 Republican National Convention, where her 
husband, then vice president, was nominated to succeed Ronald Reagan.

   The Bushes, who were married Jan. 6, 1945, had the longest marriage of any 
presidential couple in American history. And Mrs. Bush was one of only two 
first ladies who had a child who was elected president. The other was Abigail 
Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.

   "I had the best job in America," she wrote in a 1994 memoir describing her 
time in the White House. "Every single day was interesting, rewarding, and 
sometimes just plain fun."

   On Sunday, family spokesman Jim McGrath said the former first lady had 
decided to decline further medical treatment for health problems and focus 
instead on "comfort care" at home in Houston. She had been in the hospital 
recently for congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary 
disease. In 2009, she had heart valve replacement surgery, and she had a long 
history of treatment for Graves' disease, a thyroid condition.

   "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," former President 
George W. Bush said in a statement Tuesday. "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."

   George H.W. Bush held his wife's hand all day Tuesday and was at her side 
when she died, according to Jean Becker, chief of staff at George H.W. Bush's 
office in Houston.

   A funeral is planned Saturday at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, 
which Mrs. Bush and her husband regularly attended. Mrs. Bush will lie in 
repose Friday at the church for members of the public who want to pay respects. 
Saturday's service will be by invitation only, according to the George Bush 
Presidential Library Foundation.

   "Barbara Bush challenged each of us to build a better world by empowering 
people through literacy. 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," said former 
Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff James Baker III.

   The publisher's daughter and oilman's wife could be caustic in private, but 
her public image was that of a self-sacrificing, supportive spouse who referred 
to her husband as her "hero."

   In the White House, "you need a friend, someone who loves you, who's going 
to say, 'You are great,'" Mrs. Bush said in a 1992 television interview.

   Her uncoiffed, matronly appearance often provoked jokes that she looked more 
like the boyish president's mother than his wife. Late-night comedians quipped 
that her bright white hair and pale features also imparted a resemblance to 
George Washington.

   Eight years after leaving the nation's capital, Mrs. Bush stood with her 
husband, the 41st president, as their son George W. was sworn in as the 43rd 
president. They returned four years later when he won a second term. Unlike 
Mrs. Bush, Abigail Adams did not live to see her son's inauguration. She died 
in 1818, six years before John Quincy Adams was elected.

   Mrs. Bush insisted she did not try to influence her husband's politics.

   "I don't fool around with his office," she said, "and he doesn't fool around 
with my household."

   In 1984, her quick wit got her into trouble when she was quoted as referring 
to Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, as "that $4 
million --- I can't say it, but it rhymes with rich."

   "It was dumb of me. I shouldn't have said it," Mrs. Bush acknowledged in 
1988. "It was not attractive, and I've been very shamed. I apologized to Mrs. 
Ferraro, and I would apologize again."

   Daughter-in-law Laura Bush, wife of George W., said Mrs. Bush was 
"ferociously tart-tongued."

   "She's never shied away from saying what she thinks. ... She's managed to 
insult nearly all of my friends with one or another perfectly timed acerbic 
comment," Laura Bush wrote in her 2010 book, "Spoken from the Heart."

   In her 1994 autobiography, "Barbara Bush: A Memoir," Mrs. Bush said she did 
her best to keep her opinions from the public while her husband was in office. 
But she revealed that she disagreed with him on two issues: She supported legal 
abortion and opposed the sale of assault weapons.

   "I honestly felt, and still feel, the elected person's opinion is the one 
the public has the right to know," Mrs. Bush wrote.

   She also disclosed a bout with depression in the mid-1970s, saying she 
sometimes feared she would deliberately crash her car. She blamed hormonal 
changes and stress.

   "Night after night, George held me weeping in his arms while I tried to 
explain my feelings," she wrote. "I almost wonder why he didn't leave me."

   She said she snapped out of it in a few months.

   Mrs. Bush raised five children: George W., Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. A 
sixth child, 3-year-old daughter Robin, died of leukemia in 1953.

   In a speech in 1985, she recalled the stress of raising a family while 
married to a man whose ambitions carried him from the Texas oil fields to 
Congress and into influential political positions that included ambassador to 
the United Nations, GOP chairman and CIA director.

   "This was a period, for me, of long days and short years," she said, "of 
diapers, runny noses, earaches, more Little League games than you could believe 
possible, tonsils and those unscheduled races to the hospital emergency room, 
Sunday school and church, of hours of urging homework or short chubby arms 
around your neck and sticky kisses."

   Along the way, she said, there were also "bumpy moments --- not many, but a 
few --- of feeling that I'd never, ever be able to have fun again and coping 
with the feeling that George Bush, in his excitement of starting a small 
company and traveling around the world, was having a lot of fun."

   In 2003, she wrote a follow-up memoir, "Reflections: Life After the White 
House."

   "I made no apologies for the fact that I still live a life of ease," she 
wrote. "There is a difference between ease and leisure. I live the former and 
not the latter."

   Along with her memoirs, she wrote "C. Fred's Story" and "Millie's Book," 
based on the lives of her dogs. Proceeds from the books benefited adult and 
family literacy programs. Laura Bush, a former teacher with a master's degree 
in library science, continued her mother-in-law's literacy campaign in the 
White House.

   George W. was not the only Bush son to seek office in the 1990s. In 1994, 
when George W. was elected governor of Texas, son Jeb narrowly lost to 
incumbent Lawton Chiles in Florida. Four years later, Jeb was victorious in his 
second try in Florida.

   "This is a testament to what wonderful parents they are," George W. Bush 
said as Jeb Bush was sworn into office. Jeb won a second term in 2002, and then 
made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

   Sons Marvin and Neil both became businessmen. Neil achieved some notoriety 
in the 1980s as a director of a savings and loan that crashed. Daughter 
Dorothy, or Doro, has preferred to stay out of the spotlight. She married 
lobbyist Robert Koch, a Democrat, in 1992.

   In a collection of letters published in 1999, George H.W. Bush included a 
note he gave to his wife in early 1994.

   "You have given me joy that few men know," he wrote. "You have made our boys 
into men by bawling them out and then, right away, by loving them. You have 
helped Doro to be the sweetest, greatest daughter in the whole wide world. I 
have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot 
hold a candle to being Barbara's husband."

   Mrs. Bush was born Barbara Pierce in Rye, New York. Her father was the 
publisher of McCall's and Redbook magazines. After attending Smith College for 
two years, she married young naval aviator George Herbert Walker Bush. She was 
19.

   After World War II, the Bushes moved to the Texas oil patch to seek their 
fortune and raise a family. It was there that Bush began his political career, 
representing Houston for two terms in Congress in the late 1960s and early 
1970s.

   In all, the Bushes made more than two dozen moves that circled half the 
globe before landing at the White House in 1989. Opinion polls taken over the 
next four years often showed her approval ratings higher than her husband's.

   The couple's final move, after Bush lost the 1992 election to Bill Clinton, 
was to Houston, where they built what she termed their "dream house" in an 
affluent neighborhood. The Bush family also had an oceanfront summer home in 
Kennebunkport, Maine.

   After retiring to Houston, the Bushes helped raise funds for charities and 
appeared frequently at events such as Houston Astros baseball games. Public 
schools in the Houston area are named for both of them.

   In 1990, Barbara Bush gave the commencement address at all-women Wellesley 
College. Some had protested her selection because she was prominent only 
through the achievements of her husband. Her speech that day was rated by a 
survey of scholars in 1999 as one of the top 100 speeches of the century.

   "Cherish your human connections," Mrs. Bush told graduates. "At the end of 
your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one 
more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with 
a husband, a child, a friend or a parent."


(KA)

 
 
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