This week, Houston mourns one of its most prominent residents. Barbara Bush, former First Lady of the United States, passed on Tuesday at her home in west Houston. This occurred after it was announced that she would not seek more care for health conditions, choosing palliative care instead.
Although she was born in Manhattan and attended school in South Carolina, she lived in Houston for nearly 60 years, and it is here that she made her greatest impact.
A Smile You Can’t Forget
Many people across the city have personal memories of Barbara Bush. This week, we have taken time to remember the good she has done for us. One of these memories that was brought up was that of servers at Molina’s Cantina, where the Bushes came several times. Server Leo Mendoza said, “She was always smiling.” Her smile left an impression on people. It was a truly welcoming smile. She loved children and read to large audiences of them during the holiday season. It was not without reason that many people thought of her as “America’s grandmother.”
Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale was also impressed with her smile. He described her as “the type of person who’d light up a room, treated everybody the same, whether it was the person serving or the biggest person in the room.”
A Classic Romance
Barbara Bush is famous for saying that she married the first man she ever kissed. But there is much more to the story, when you consider that between their first meeting and their marriage, the war intervened.
They were engaged before George went off to fight for the nation, the youngest naval aviator to serve at that point. He named three of his planes after her. When he returned on leave, the two of them were married, and then he enrolled in Yale, in the tradition of his family, although he remained in the Navy until after Japan’s surrender.
A strong marriage is a great foundation for a home, but the Bushes didn’t have a chance to set one up for a long time. They had to move around often along the East Coast for George’s naval service, then moved to California, but it wasn’t until they reached Houston that they were able to settle. And it was here that George began his political career. Barbara was a stalwart supporter and helped him strategically.
Champion of Literacy
When George became the Vice President, Barbara decided as Second Lady that literacy would be her cause. She believed that the challenge of literacy was one of the greatest that our nation faced, and that a literate nation would be a better nation. She began a nationwide campaign to improve literacy.
In Houston, she founded the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. Recognizing her efforts in favor of education, several schools have been named after her, including an elementary school here in Houston.
A Loss to Our Community
With her white hair, pearls, and bright, pearly smile, Barbara Bush has been such an icon that we can’t help but miss her. Our lives will be diminished at her loss, and we can only hope to live up to her kindness and desire to make our nation and our world a better place.