2018-12-06 / News

Former President Bush missed by many

By Dina Mendros
Journal Tribune

KENNEBUNKPORT — For decades former President George H.W. Bush, his wife Barbara, his children and grandchildren have been summer fixtures at the family’s Walker’s Point estate.

That changed earlier this year on April 17, when Barbara Bush died in Houston. On Friday, George H.W. Bush died, also in Houston.

The former president’s summer hometown was bustling the day following his death as thousands thronged to the area to celebrate the holidays by partaking in some of the multitude of events that occur during Kennebunkport’s annual Christmas Prelude.

But many on Saturday took a few moments from their revelry to reflect on the 41st president.

“It’s a sad day,” said Tom Hunt from Lynn, Massachusetts. “He was a great president. … an American icon.”

Bush, 94, became the longest living president on his birthday June 12, which he celebrated in Kennebunkport. Born in 1924, he enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, becoming the youngest fighter pilot in World War II. He was a congressman from Texas, director of the CIA, President Ronald Reagan’s vice president and served one term as president from 1989 to 1993.

“It’s timely, but I’m sad to see a gentleman and scholar (go),” said Bonnie Tallagnon of Biddeford.

“He was vital and active for so many years,” she said.

“He was a good example to our country and the rest of the world,” Tallagnon said.

Lynn Mancha of Northfield, Massachusetts, who visits Kennebunkport often, said she waited on Bush when she was much younger and was working as a waitress at The Colony in Kennebunkport.

“One time the Bush family came in ... I was an inexperienced waitress. … They were so nice to me. … He was so kind and personable, just a regular person,” Mancha said.

While summering in the area, George and Barbara touched both people and institutions in the area.

An email from the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust said, “Here in Kennebunkport, we will also miss him as a friend and a neighbor. This town, he was quick to point out, was his ‘Anchor to Windward,’ and he loved it in a way that was steeped in generations of family memories and traditions. This was where he could play and pray and tighten the bonds of family and friends.”

“On behalf of the Diocese of Portland, I offer my prayerful sympathy to the Bush family after the passing of President George H.W. Bush,” Bishop Robert Deeley of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Portland. “America has lost a true gentleman and leader, and Maine has lost a friend. President Bush was inspired by a call to serve his country and a desire to help people in need. He will be remembered for his integrity.”

The former president and his wife were also good friends of the University of New England.

“It’s been said that America will never know another generation like the one to which George H.W. Bush belonged,” said UNE President James D. Herbert. “At UNE, we came to know two people – President and Mrs. Bush — who epitomized the Greatest Generation. With his committed dedication to public service, good humor and unfailing optimism, President Bush inspired our students and staff. He will be missed.”

After forging a partnership with the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, UNE opened its George and Barbara Bush Center in 2008, which houses a statue of the president, photographs and paintings of the president and first lady, and other artifacts celebrating the Bushes’ love of the Maine coast, according to a statement from the university.

“Two years later, in 2010, UNE inaugurated the George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture Series, an annual event honoring the legacy of President and Mrs. Bush as political and community leaders,” according to the release. “The former president and first lady attended the lecture each year, prior to heading back to Texas for the winter, until failing health forced them to miss the event for the first time in 2016.”

Both the president and his wife, especially in their later years, received care at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, and the emergency department is named in honor of the president’s mother, Dorothy Wallker Bush.

“The Southern Maine Health Care family joins the country in mourning the passing of our 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush,” said SMHC CEO Nate Howell. “President Bush was a gentleman and a statesman who dedicated himself to serving others. I was fortunate enough to meet him and was struck by his relaxed, down-to-earth manner. He put people at ease and had genuine interest in others and their wellbeing. President Bush was an extraordinary man who traveled the globe, was the leader of the free world, and jumped from a plane at age 90. Yet what he treasured most was the ordinary things — holding hands with his loving wife; time with family and friends; small town parades; the flag; the sea; and his home to windward, Walker’s Point.”

Many of Maine’s current and former political figures also said there were saddened by the death of the president.

“Today, we lost an icon of public service and a leader of unwavering strength, humanity and integrity with the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. Our prayers go out to the entire Bush family, as they endure this painful loss,” said former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and her husband, former Republican Gov. John McKernan in a statement. “History will record how President Bush guided America through, and helped shape, numerous transformational events – from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the triumph of Operation Desert Storm. He commanded the helm of the greatest nation on earth and steered it through the rough waters of change, uncertainty and challenge and, in so doing, personified what a president and a commander-in-chief should be.”

“It was with great sadness that Ann and I heard the news last night of the passing of President Bush. America has lost an icon,” stated Republican Gov. Paul LePage. “He can now rest with his beloved Barbara. President Bush has been an unwavering supporter of Maine and a vibrant part of the Kennebunkport community for decades. We shall keep the Bush family in our hearts at this difficult time. On behalf of the people of Maine, we send our deepest condolences. Know that President Bush’s life and legacy of public service will be an eternal source of hope and inspiration for the people of Maine and around the world,” Gov. LePage said. “America has lost a true gentle-man.”

Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins had high praise for George H.W. Bush.

“On Ocean Avenue in Kennebunkport, Maine, stands a simple yet powerful monument, a gift from the people of that small town to a friend and neighbor. The monument is a United States Navy anchor; the friend and neighbor is President George Herbert Walker Bush,” Collins said. “It is a fitting tribute. President Bush often called the family home at Walker’s Point his ‘Anchor to Windward,’ a special place of unsurpassed natural beauty in a caring community. Through the years, it was been the place that gave him the strength to face the many challenges he took on in dedicated service to our country.

“It is fitting in another way. As a Navy aviator in World War II, in Congress, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, vice president, and president, George H.W. Bush consistently and vigorously demonstrated the values that are the anchor of American society,” she said. “Courage, duty, honor, and compassion define our nation and his life. As he encouraged Americans to be a “thousand points of light” through service to others, he shone the brightest. These values were also demonstrated by his First Lady, Barbara, his devoted partner for 73 wonderful years. As we recall what President and Mrs. Bush gave to our nation, we also reflect upon what we have lost.”

Collins said she admired the former president for his championing of others.

“The end of a life so devoted to the highest ideals of the human spirit brings to mind the Parable of the Talents. The master, leaving on a journey, entrusts a servant with a portion of his treasure. Upon his return, the master is delighted to find that his wealth was wisely invested and multiplied,” she said. “George Herbert Walker Bush was entrusted with the great treasure of principles, determination, and courage. He invested that treasure wisely and multiplied it to the benefit of all. Like the master in the New Testament, to him we say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ May God bless him and keep his memory always anchored in our hearts.”

On Saturday, the governor directed the United States flag and the state of Maine flag be flown at half-staff immediately for 30 days to honor the life and memory of President George H.W. Bush.

President Donald Trump designated Wednesday, Dec. 5, as a National Day of Mourning in President Bush’s honor.

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