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Editorial: Farewell to a fine first lady

Dedication to her husband, family and fellow Americans garnered Barbara Bush the respect of this country’s citizens. It was well earned.

Mrs. Bush died Tuesday at her home in Houston at 92.

She was the wife of the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, and the mother of George W. Bush, the 43rd. As such, she was only the second woman in American history to hold the distinction of a son following his father into the White House. Before that, Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams, held that honor by herself.

Mrs. Bush promoted literacy, starting the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and dedicating the profits from two books toward literacy causes. Later, her daughter-in-law Laura, a former public school teacher and librarian, also promoted literacy as first lady.

Born Barbara Pierce on June 8, 1925, she came into a family history of public service. Her mother was the daughter of an Ohio Supreme Court justice and was active in civic affairs in the New York City suburb of Rye, where the family lived. One of Mrs. Bush’s distant relatives was Franklin Pierce, this country’s 14th president.

Meeting future husband George Bush in 1941 at a Christmas dance at the Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., may have seemed political and romantic destiny. George Bush’s father was a Wall Street executive and, at that time, a future United States senator from Connecticut.

The couple married in 1945. Celebrating their 73rd wedding anniversary in January, the couple set a record for longest-married couple in presidential history. The former president has said: “We are two people, but we are one.” It perfectly describes their decades of togetherness.

Mrs. Bush had been staunchly dedicated to her husband. She was not shy in defending him or her sons George and later Jeb, in his failed attempt to secure the Republican presidential nomination – even if she initially had her doubts about whether any more Bush family members should seek such high office.

The first lady not only championed literacy, but had been an early supporter of the civil rights movement. Upon becoming first lady, she insisted that her press secretary be black. It was a first for that position.

Her use of self-deprecating humor and unpretentiousness only increased her appeal, as did the love she showed her family and country. It’s no surprise that Americans liked this first lady.

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