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Posted: April 18, 2018

Barbara Bush death: World War II love letter between presidential couple shows their long connection

Biography of Barbara Pierce Bush

By Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

They met when they were teens, not knowing where life would lead them. But one thing that never waned between former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush was their love.

Hours after news of the death of Barbara Bush spread, a simple love note between a Navy flyer and his fiancée is now going viral nearly 75 years after it was written, Fox News reported.

The letter starts with the future president writing “My darling Bar.”

He then recounts how he was happy to read their engagement announcement in the newspaper, Fox News reported.

>> Read more trending news 

“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,” he continued.

Bush also wrote, “This may sound melodramatic, but if it does it is only my inadequacy to say what I mean. Bar, you have made my life full of everything I could ever dream of -- my complete happiness should be a token of my love for you.”

The presidential couple met at a Christmas dance when she was 17, known as Barbara Pierce, and he was 18, and a naval aviator in training.

They were married Jan. 6, 1945. It was only four months after Bush was shot down over the Pacific. He named his Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber “Barbara” and was the youngest aviator when he earned his wings.

Barbara Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92. She will lay in repose from noon to midnight Friday at St. Martin’s Church in Houston, CBS News reported. The public is invited to pay respects during that time. The funeral service will be by invitation only on Saturday.

She will be interred at the Bush family gravesite at the George Bush Presidential Library Center in College Station, Texas. The site will be open the day after her interment for visitors.

She was a big supporter of literacy. Instead of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy at http://barbarabush.org/

Eric Shea/Getty Images
FILE PHOTO: Former first lady Barbara Bush greets her husband and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush with a kiss after his successful skydive down to St. Anne's Episcopal Church on June 12, 2014 in Kennebunkport, Maine. The President is celebrating his 90th birthday today. (Photo by Eric Shea/Getty Images)


Related

Barbara Bush Through The Years

Barbara Bush Through The Years

Barbara Bush: What you should know about the former first lady

Former first lady Barbara Bush, 92, is in failing health and has decided not to seek further treatment, according to a family spokesman. Along with Abigail Adams, Bush holds the distinction of being the wife of one president and the mother of another. Here are some other facts about the wife of the nation’s 41st president, George H.W. Bush.

>> Read more trending news

Presidential timber: Not only is Barbara Bush the wife of George H.W. Bush and the mother of the 43rd president, George W. Bush, she also is the fourth cousin, four generations removed, of the nation’s 14th president, Franklin Pierce. She is related to Pierce through her father, Marvin Pierce. 

>> Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Meeting George: Barbara Pierce met George H.W. Bush in 1941 at a dance at the Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut. They became engaged just before George Bush left to become a Navy torpedo bomber pilot during World War II. They were married on Jan. 6, 1945 and have been married 73 years.

Politician’s wife: Barbara and George had six children: George, Pauline Robinson (known as Robin; she died of leukemia in 1953), John Ellis (Jeb), Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. During George H.W. Bush’s career as a businessman and a politician, Barbara supervised 29 household moves.

>> Photos: Barbara Bush through the years

That white hair: Barbara’s brown hair turned white during Robin’s treatment for leukemia. While in the White House, Barbara’s hair gave her a grandmotherly look, and her son George dubbed her “The Silver Fox.”

She’s a pearl: The triple-string false pearl necklace Barbara wore to her husband’s inauguration in January 1989 became a national fashion trend. She later said she wore the pearls to cover the wrinkles in her neck.

Book smart: In 1984 Barbara wrote “C. Fred’s Story,” which was about the Bush family dog. "Millie's Book," about another Bush family dog was published in 1990. It was published a year after the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy was founded. In 1994, Barbara published her memoirs.

Information from wire services was also used in this report

Former first lady Barbara Bush dead at 92

Former first lady Barbara Bush has died at her home in Texas at the age of 92.

>> Read more trending news 

The news came after a family spokesman said April 15 that Bush would not be seek further medical treatment following a number of hospitalizations. Family spokesman Jim McGrath said the former first lady would “instead focus in comfort care.”

McGrath did not specify the illness or sickness that led to Bush’s decision. She had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

Related: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Bush was hospitalized early last year when her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, was admitted for treatment of a case of viral bronchitis.

Related: George H.W. Bush discharged from hospital after pneumonia diagnosis

The Bushes had six children, including former President George W. Bush, 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and Robin Bush, who died as a child.

Barbara Bush was born June 8, 1925 in New York City.

Related: Photos: Barbara Bush through the years

She married George H.W. Bush in 1945, making theirs the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history. Barbara Bush supported her husband throughout his political career, including his time as a congressional representative from Texas, as vice president and as the 41st president of the United States.

Barbara Bush founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in 1989 with the goal of empowering families through literacy.

Bush is survived by her husband, George H.W. Bush, five children, 17 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Condolences pouring in for Barbara Bush, ‘she had grit and grace, brains and beauty’

Condolences for the Bush family on the death of former first lady Barbara Bush are pouring in from around the country as family members remember the life and impact of the matriarch of the Bush family political dynasty.

>> Read more trending news 

What we learned about Barbara Bush from her famous granddaughters

Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Glamour

What we learned about Barbara Bush from her famous granddaughters

As the daughters and granddaughters of two U.S. presidents, 36-year-old twin sisters Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager occupy a beyond-unique perch in American culture.

>> Read more trending news

And helping them keep things in perspective their whole lives, it seems, was their beloved grandmother, Barbara Bush. The 92-year-old former first lady of the United States died Tuesday at her home in Houston, a family spokesperson said.

Barbara Bush’s central role in her granddaughters’ lives was obvious in “Sisters First,” the joint memoir the twins publishedlast fall and gave a sold-out talk about at the Book Festival of the MJCCA back in November. 

The book covers all aspects of their lives -- including a hilarious account of their first-ever visit to Georgia during their “Gampy’s” 1992 reelection campaign (former President George H.W. Bush ended up losing that race to Bill Clinton). Still, it’s their “Ganny” (or “the Enforcer,” as they also sometimes referred to their paternal grandmother) who kept popping up on page after page to command readers’ respect, attention -- and smiles.

Over the years, Ganny laid down the law -- and took the twins to Italy when they turned 16 and bought them their first martinis at Harry’s Bar in Venice. 

Here are some other things that made the former first lady unforgettable in her granddaughters’ telling:

Her house, her rules: “On one visit, when my dad put his feet up on her coffee table,” Bush Hager wrote, “she told him, ‘I don’t care if you are the president of the United States, take your feet off my coffee table.’ And my dad did.”

Her White House, her rules: Soon after their grandfather became president, the 7-year-old twins ordered up peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for delivery to them in the White House bowling alley. Bush Hager again: “We were like Eloise in our own Plaza!” Then the door opened and “Ganny” entered “and told us in no uncertain terms that we were not in a hotel.”

Her fashion do and don’t: Bush loved Keds sneakers so much, her husband gave her 24 pairs for her birthday one year when they were in the White House. But wait, it got better: “As she grew older, she became more accessible and playful as well,” Pierce Bush wrote. “Sixty-year-old Barbara Bush might not have worn two different-colored sneakers, but by age eighty, she loved to pair a pink shoe with a red one from her closetful of colorful Keds.”

The Enforcer was always on duty: Several summers ago, Bush Hager organized a family tennis tournament and made it to the finals. Egged on by her father, the former president, she celebrated her best shots by shimmying on court and even lifting her skirt at one point. A few weeks later, an envelope arrived at her New York apartment containing “a typed note addressed to both my dad and me. Like a lawyer building her case, Ganny recited my every unsportsmanlike infraction . . . Ganny was deeply disappointed with me because of my behavior, and angry that my dad had encouraged it.”

Except for when she was needlepointing: Over the years, Bush needlepointed Christmas stockings for her entire, sprawling family. And in a section of the book that seems especially poignant now, Bush Hager, herself the mother of two young girls, wrote last year that her grandmother “is making a stocking reserve, so that all the great-grandchildren, including any who might be born after she passes away, will have a Ganny stocking to hang for Santa. She has even made a plan to have someone else personalize them if she is no longer able.”

She held onto husband, in every sense: “My grandmother becomes softer and gentler around her husband of more than seven decades,” Pierce Bush wrote last year. “In the last few years, she has willed him back from the brink of death several times. His obituary has been written, but Ganny wouldn’t let him die . . . At ninety-two and ninety-three, they sleep holding hands.”

When is Barbara Bush’s funeral?

Barbara Bush’s funeral arrangements are set for this weekend in Houston.

>> Read more trending news 

A public viewing for the former first lady was held on Friday, where approximately 2,500 mourners paid their respects.

The private funeral service for Bush is set for Saturday at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. Attendance at the service is by invitation only. The Rector of St. Martin's will preside over the service along with the chaplain of St. Ann's Episcopal from Kennebunkport, Maine.

Related: Former first lady Barbara Bush dead at 92

President Donald Trump has ordered flags at the White House and on public and federal property around the United States flown at half staff this weekend in honor of Barbara Bush.

Related: Condolences pouring in for Barbara Bush, ‘she had grit and grace, brains and beauty’

She’ll be laid to rest at the Bush Library in College Station, Texas, next to her daughter, Robin, who died at the age of 4, according to an interview the Bushes did with CNN’s Larry King in 2004.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

  Former first lady Barbara Bush dead at 92
Barbara Bush 'brought out the best in America,' Georgia policymaker says

Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives

Barbara Bush 'brought out the best in America,' Georgia policymaker says

In 1987, when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was eyeing the White House, Eric Tanenblatt was manning an Atlanta phone bank when Barbara Bush walked in -- and got to work.

>> Read more trending news

“She actually got on the phone,” he said. “She started calling people in Georgia to thank them for their support. She was actively involved in the campaigns.”

Tanenblatt served in the Bush administration, later became Gov. Sonny Perdue’s chief of staff and now chairs the U.S. Public Policy practice at the global law firm Dentons. He recalled Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at age 92 after a period of failing health, as sincere and welcoming.

“She brought the best to the White House, and brought out the best of America,” he said. “She was like everyone’s grandmother.”

The Bush twins were 7 when their grandfather became president, and they were eager to seize the mantle of First Granddaughter, ordering peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to be delivered to the White House bowling alley. Ganny put the kibosh on the Eloise act, reminding the young ladies they were in the people’s house, “not in a hotel.”

Later, during their dad’s administration, Barbara Bush admonished the leader of the free world when he got too comfy. “I don’t care if you are the President of the United States, take your feet off my coffee table,’” she said. Bush 43 complied.

Tanenblatt chuckled at the twins’ anecdotes.

“She was sincere but she was clearly someone who spoke her mind,” he said. “There were no airs about her.”

In recent years, Tanenblatt joined the Bushes in Kennebunkport, Maine, for her 90th birthday, which served as a fundraiser for her literacy foundation.

“The good work of her foundation will carry on that legacy,” he said. During his time there, he recalled seeing Barbara Bush enjoying walks on the beach.

“She was very unassuming,” he said. “She was like every average person you see on the street.”

Barbara Bush in her own words: Quotes from the former first lady

Former first lady Barbara Bush will be remembered for many things, but being shy about speaking out won’t be one of them. 

Bush, who died Tuesday at her home in Houston, is being remembered as someone not afraid to speak her mind when asked and not shy about giving a blunt, straight-forward response. 

>> Read more trending news

Here are a few of Mrs. Bush’s best-remembered and refreshingly honest quotes.

  • “I married the first man I ever kissed. When I tell this to my children, they just about throw up.”
  • “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people - your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”

>>Barbara Bush funeral set to begin Friday in Houston

  • “And who knows? Somewhere out there in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the president's spouse. I wish him well!” – At a speech at Wellesley in 1990. Some students objected to her speaking at the college, saying she did not represent the values of the school because she left college to marry and never held a job outside of the home.
  • “One thing I can say about George... he may not be able to keep a job, but he's not boring.”
  • "Avoid this crowd like the plague. And if they quote you, make damn sure they heard you.” – Advice to Hillary Clinton on handling reporters.
  • “I don't think that's healthy for the country when anyone thinks their morals are better than anyone else's.” 
  • "I can't say it, but it rhymes with 'rich.'" – Describing Democrat Geraldine Ferraro, her husband’s opponent for vice president in 1984. She apologized for the remark and noted that the word she was referring to was “witch.”
  • “You have to love your children unselfishly. That's hard. But it's the only way.”
  • “The future of this nation does not depend on what happens at the White House, but what happens at your house.”

>>Condolences pouring in for Barbara Bush, ‘she had grit and grace, brains and beauty'

  • “The darn trouble with cleaning the house is it gets dirty the next day anyway, so skip a week if you have to. The children are the most important thing.”
  • “Libraries have always seemed like the richest places in the world to me, and I’ve done some of my best learning and thinking thanks to them. Libraries and librarians have definitely changed my life, and the lives of countless other Americans.”
  • “I do have the most marvelous husband, children, and grandchildren.”
  • “Raising five boys is a handful, trust me.”
  • “Why be afraid of what people will say? Those who care about you will say, ‘Good luck!’ and those who care only about themselves will never say anything worth listening to anyway.”
  • “I hate abortions, but just could not make that choice for someone else.”
  • “Nancy Reagan was a perfectionist, and I am not.”
  •  “It's been different. I started driving again. I started cooking again. My driving's better than my cooking. George has discovered Sam's Club.” – Describing to David Letterman her life after the White House.

>>What we learned about Barbara Bush from her famous granddaughters

  • "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." – Comments after visiting refugees from Hurricane Katrina and were being temporarily housed in the Houston Astrodome.
  • “Suddenly women's lib had made me feel my life had been wasted.”
  • “Raising George Walker was not easy.”
  • "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 child, or a parent." 

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