In 1988 I was a 14 year old freshman at Avon High. For whatever reason I took a great interest in the political scene at the time.
In 1988 I was a 14 year old freshman at Avon High. For whatever reason I took a great interest in the political scene at the time. I was particularly drawn to Elizabeth Dole (wife of Bob) and Barbara Bush.
Being the letter writer I was I penned one to each of them. Never heard back from Elizabeth, but Mrs. Bush sent me a handwritten card telling me how happy she was to hear of a young person taking an interest in politics. In my correspondence to her I had told her I wanted to be a writer. In her reply she told me I could be whatever I wanted to be and if I wanted to be a writer that was a wonderful profession.
That sealed the deal for me as far as who I would eagerly follow through this particular election.
My senior year of high school in College Prep English our second semester grade was based solely on our senior term paper.
I asked my teacher and was granted permission (because she had to approve all topics) if I could write about Barbara Bush. She agreed and I began my research (back in the day when you actually had to go and research rather than type the information into a search engine).
I also wrote the First Lady another letter telling her I was now a senior and doing my term paper on her. I added if she came to visit my school I was guaranteed an A.
Again, the response I received was a handwritten letter telling me how honored she was I chose her to write about. She said, while she would love to come and visit our school, her obligations would not allow it, but she knew I would be able to get an A on the paper regardless of whether or not she made an appearance.
In 2000 I was able to cover Former President George H.W. Bush’s commencement speech at Monmouth College. I had met him previously while he was running for president when he made an appearance at the Farm Progress Show held in DeKalb that year. I had heard he was making an appearance, but unfortunately it was slated to be after our FFA group left for the day.
I asked our FFA Advisor multiple times if we could stay to see Vice-President Bush, but the answer was no.
As we climbed on the bus to head back towards Avon the bus driver announced he had lost the keys to the bus.
He could not find them anywhere. My FFA Advisor asked if I knew anything about the missing keys, but I did not.
Ultimately our superintendent, Mr. John Mowery, had to drive another set of keys to DeKalb from Avon.
Bush had already arrived, but one of my best friends, Jeremy, offered to carry me on his back so he could get me to Bush’s location. Full disclosure, I was around 80 pounds at the time so Jeremy didn’t struggle to get me from point A to point B.
Upon arriving we were stopped by a Secret Service Agent who told us we could not cross the staging area to get a better look.
Jeremy pled my case and the agent subsequently lifted the tape and allowed us to go through.
As then Vice-President Bush walked through he shook Jeremy’s hand first saying, “You are our future, young man!”
And, Jeremy, being the honest fellow he was said, “Oh, no. I didn’t want to see you, she did,” pointing to me.
Bush then shook my hand, laughing as he said, “You, young lady, have a very good friend in that young man!”
As I was briefed at Monmouth College by Secret Service as to what I was allowed to do and wasn’t allowed to do all I could think of was, “I’m going to get to see Barbara Bush!”
Bush opened his address by impersonating Dana Carvey impersonating him. It was hilarious!
I was able to sit in the front row directly across from Barbara.
A few times I leaned forward in my seat and casually waved at her. She waved back, big smile, white hair and signature pearls easy to spot. When it came my turn to meet her I’m sure I sounded like a complete goober. I told her I had written her in the past once about wanting to be a writer and the other about doing a term paper on her. She said she remembered and asked what grade I received on the term paper. I proudly told her an A+. Seeing my press credentials she noted, “I see you became a writer, as well. I’m very proud of you!”
Again, being the goober I can be in the midst of someone I greatly admire said, “I’m proud of you, too!”
She smiled and said she was glad she was able to visit with me.
It was a few months later Nick died and my admiration for this class act of a woman grew as I knew from previous research she and President Bush had lost a daughter, Pauline Robinson Bush or Robin, when she was 3 years old. She succumbed to leukemia. I absorbed everything I could find regarding their loss and how they dealt with hit. Barbara’s hair started turning white from stress while Robin was undergoing treatment. She said several years later she colored it a few times because it did make her look older than George and sometimes people said hurtful things about it, but after it turned green following a swim she decided she was just too active to worry about her hair or what others thought of it.
While then Vice President Bush campaigned a tabloid ran a story about how the day after Robin died a ‘’cold hearted’’ Barbara went golfing with her father-in-law, Prescott Bush. She did indeed go golfing with him, but what people didn’t know or understand was she had been by Robin’s side for the duration of her illness and her father-in-law told her she needed to take some time away from everything going on. Earlier that day they had been looking at resting places for the little girl. People who have not gone through the loss of a child have no room to judge, dictate or criticize how the parents feel or act immediately following their child’s passing.
Sunday I learned she was seriously ill. Tuesday evening while covering Canton City Council my Kid texted me and said she had passed away. I truly was devastated.
I’ve read multiple stories how she was often called The Enforcer. No doubt about it she was not a woman to mess with especially when it came to her family and those she cared about. I am very much like her in that regard.
However, her Secret Service code name was ‘Tranquility’ and that is how I like to think of her.
Her family has expressed a great deal of thanks for the words of kindness and gestures, but they are all confident in the fact she is in Heaven and that brings them much comfort.
While physically gone, her legacy will live on for the foreseeable future.