Remembering 41: A life, a legacy of services; Residents, lawmakers pay tribute to world leader, family man

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Burnet Bulletin

Residents and representatives of the Highland Lakes paused this week to reflect on and remember the life of the late former President George Herbert Walker Bush, who died Nov. 30 at the age of 94.

A national day of mourning was observed Wednesday, Dec. 5, as the 41st president was honored during a funeral service at the National Cathedral Washington, D.C., with President Donald Trump and all four surviving former presidents in attendance.

A second funeral service was held Thursday, Dec. 6, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston before his coffin was transported by train to College Station, where he was to be buried on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M, next to his wife Barbara, who died at age 92 in April, and their daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953.

The late president was a personal friend and mentor to U.S. Rep. Roger William, R-Austin, who serves Burnet County and District 25 in the House of Representatives.

“America has lost a great servant, and I have lost a great friend,” Williams said. “George H.W. Bush epitomized everything wonderful about America, and like his country, he was tough, strong, and kind. He changed this nation and he changed the world.

“Many times, it was President Bush who I turned to for sage advice and wisdom. He encouraged me to follow a path to public service and has been an inspiration throughout my life.

“Those who knew President Bush knew that his love for his country was only surpassed by his love for his family,” Williams added. “This is an immeasurable loss for America, but I am comforted knowing that he has been reunited with his beloved, Barbara Bush, and is now with the Lord. My family and I will continue praying for the entire Bush family during this difficult time.”

Andi Ball, a Highland Haven resident, recently worked for Williams as a field director in his Austin district office and also served as former First Lady Laura Bush's chief of staff for 10 years from 1995 to 2005, beginning when the latter was First Lady of Texas.

“During the ten years I was Laura Bush’s chief of staff I was honored to often spend time with President George H.W. Bush (41) and Barbara. He was a true gentleman,” Ball said Wednesday. “President Bush was the epitome of public service. He had a wonderful sense of humor and his family absolutely loved him.

“He was a prolific letter writer — funny, touching, caring notes and letters. I saw many of them and often wept or laughed when I read them. He will be greatly missed by his family and Americans. We all can rest assured that he is in a much better place with his loves, Barbara and Robin.”

On Thursday, Ball said she was watching the Houston funeral service and that she had watched Wednesday's National Cathedral service, which she called “sad, funny, poignant.”

“George HW Bush is a man we all should wish to emulate,” Ball said. “All he has done, but mostly the impact on a family that he loved and loves him! I wish we weren’t out of town; I would have been somewhere on the train route, sending him love on his way to his rest in College Station.”

State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, recognized the love between the late former president and the late first lady, who were married for 73 years until her passing.

“America's longest married "first couple" are together again, reunited in spirit,” Buckingham said. “The 41st president and Mrs. Bush demonstrated to the world that true love is enduring. That love at first sight is a godsend, not a fairy tale. God be with you both and may you rest in peace.”

Preston F. Kirk, a Spicewood resident, first covered the late president, who family lovingly called “Poppy,” while working as a reporter for United Press International in 1970 during George H.W. Bush's failed bid to succeed Ralph Yarbrough in the U.S. Senate.

The elder Bush, who lost that election to the late Lloyd Bentsen, came to the Rio Grande Valley to tour the area and visit with residents during a poliomyelitis outbreak.

“Then along came Texas senatorial candidate George Herbert Walker Bush, fearlessly striding through the barrios and the communities — slum-like areas lacking basic services of clean water, sanitary sewers and paved streets,” Kirk recalled. “I was impressed. He was personable, spoke some Spanish, did not denigrate his opponent, Lloyd Bentsen. He was a brisk walker and sometimes a brisk talker, a challenge for a height-challenged "scribbler" with a hearing problem to keep up.

When Kirk went back to the Houston UPI bureau later that year, he was assigned to cover Bush campaign headquarters and got to know the measure of the man who would eventually become the “leader of the free world” when elected president in 1988.

“He did not win (the 1970 Senate election). Texas was as blue as a clear July sky back then with few Republicans holding any offices. But I knew then that I had trailed a decent man,” Kirk said. “With each step in public office — U.N. Ambassador, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President, President — I continued to follow his career with enthusiasm not typically allowed of an unbiased chronicler of current events. It pleases me that his final resting place will be on Texas soil, not some frozen, Kennebunkport terrain. R.I.P. 'Poppy.'”

Bush, who first came to Texas in 1948 to pursue a career in the oil and gas industry, was the third person with ties to the Lone Star State to serve as president, following the late Dwight D. Eisenhower (born in Denison) and the late Lyndon Baines Johnson (born in Stonewall) and preceding his own son, George W. Bush.

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