Rarely has a first lady been greeted by the American people and the press with the approbation and warmth accorded to Barbara Pierce Bush. People are comfortable with her warm, relaxed manner and keen wit. With characteristic directness, she explained that people liked her because "I'm fair and I like children and I adore my husband."
Barbara Pierce was born on June 8, 1925, and grew up in the suburban town of Rye, New York. She went to boarding school at Ashley Hall in South Carolina. It was at a dance when she was only 16 that she met George Bush. They became engaged just before he went off to war as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot. When George returned on leave, Barbara had dropped out of Smith College. Two weeks later, on January 6, 1945, they were married.
After the war, they set out for Texas to start their lives together. Six children were born to them: George, Robin, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy. In the first 44 years of marriage, while her husband built a business in the oil industry and held a variety of political and public service positions, Mrs. Bush managed 29 moves of the household. She became the family linchpin, providing everything from discipline to carpools. The death of their daughter Robin from leukemia when she was not quite four left them with a lifelong compassion. She said, "Because of Robin, George and I love every living human more."
Barbara Bush was always an asset to her husband during his campaigns for public office. Her friendly, forthright manner won her high marks from the voters and the press. As wife of the vice president, she selected the promotion of literacy as her special cause. As first lady, she called working for a more literate America the "most important issue we have." Involved with many organizations devoted to this cause, she became honorary chairman of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. A strong advocate of volunteerism, Mrs. Bush helped many causes including the homeless, the elderly, AIDS, and school volunteer programs.
Barbara Bush lived in a home she and her husband built in Houston, Texas, where she enjoyed being part of the community. Their children and grandchildren visit them often in Houston and at the family summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Devoted to her family, Mrs. Bush found time to write an autobiography, to serve on the Boards of AmeriCares and the Mayo Clinic, and to continue her prominent role in the Barbara Bush Foundation.
Barbara Bush died at home in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 2018. She was buried at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.
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