Love Story of Former President George Bush and Barbara Bush Started in Connecticut

The governor has ordered that flags be lowered across Connecticut in honor of former first lady Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at the age of 92 and had a long-lasting connection to the state.

The love story of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush started right here in Connecticut.

It was in 1941 at a Christmas dance at the Round Hill Club in Greenwich that 16-year-old Barbara Pierce met 18-year-old George Herbert Walker Bush, the son of Prescott Sheldon Bush, who served as a U.S. senator from Connecticut from 1952 to 1963, according to Greenwich Time.

The former president was a naval aviator in training when they met.

"I'm not much at recalling what people wear, but that particular occasion stands out in my memory," he says in his autobiography.

The band was playing Glenn Miller tunes and he asked a friend from Rye, New York, if he knew the girl across the room in the green and red holiday dress. The friend introduced him to Barbara Pierce, a publisher's daughter from Rye who was going to school in South Carolina.

The next song was a waltz.

"Since I didn't waltz, we sat the dance out. And several more after that, talking and getting to know each other," George H.W. Bush said. "It was a storybook meeting."

Within eight months, they'd met each other's families, were engaged in August 1943 and married Jan. 6, 1945, four months after Bush was shot down over the Pacific. He'd been the Navy's youngest aviator when he got his wings and carried the name "Barbara" on his Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber.

George H.W. Bush went to Yale and was a member of the class of 1948. During his time at Yale, he, Barbara and their then-baby son, George, lived in an apartment on Chapel Street, they also lived at 37 Hillhouse, according to the Yale alumni magazine.

Judith Schiff, Yale University's chief research archivist, said George H.W. Bush deferred attending Yale until after World War II and the completion of his military service. 

They went on to have the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history.

George H.W. Bush was at his wife's side when she died and had been holding her hand all day, according to Jean Becker, chief of staff at the former president's office in Houston.

Mrs. Bush was one of only two first ladies who had a child who was elected president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.

“Barbara Bush had a respect and love for our country that perhaps was only surpassed by her love for her family. Nobody can deny the honesty, dignity, and class with which she carried herself. On behalf of the State of Connecticut, we send our very best to the Bush family and extend our deepest sympathies,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement.

He ordered that U.S. and state flags fly at half-staff, beginning immediately, in accordance with a presidential proclamation that directs flags to be lowered to half-staff throughout the country.

“My thoughts are with the Bush family as they mourn the loss of Barbara Bush. She was a true First Lady whose priorities reflected her commitment to education, women, and all Americans. She served with compassion and respect, leaving behind partisanship for what was right. We are deeply grateful for her service to the nation and the legacy she leaves around literacy and learning,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said in a statement.

Barbara Bush was Americares Ambassador-at-Large and the Stamford-based organization released a statement expressing condolences Tuesday night, saying the former President and first lady were instrumental in founding the organization. 

“No one was a better ambassador for Americares than Barbara Bush,” Leila Macauley, Americares co-founder and permanent vice chairman, said in a statement. “It wasn’t glamorous work, but she was a trooper and believed in our mission. She helped us build one of the country’s largest humanitarian organizations in only a few short years. We owe her a debt of gratitude.”

Flags will remain lowered until sunset on the day of interment, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 21.

Since no flag should fly higher than the U.S. flag, all other flags, including state, municipal, corporate, or otherwise, should also be lowered during this same duration of time, according to the governor’s office.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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