Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies at 92: 'A Woman Unlike Any Other'
Former First Lady Barbara Bush, the indomitable family matriarch and a champion of family literacy, has died. She was 92.
The Office of George H. W. Bush confirmed her death on Tuesday, saying in a statement, “A former First Lady of the United States of America and relentless proponent of family literacy, Barbara Pierce Bush passed away Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at the age of 92.
“She is survived by her husband of 73 years, President George H. W. Bush; five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren; and her brother Scott Pierce. She was preceded in death by her second child, Pauline “Robin” Bush, and her siblings Martha Rafferty and James R. Pierce.”
The statement added that “the official funeral schedule will be announced as soon as is practical.”
Her son George W. Bush also confirmed her passing, paying tribute to the strong woman who raised him.
“My dear mother has passed on at age 92,” he said in a statement. “Laura, Barbara, Jenna, and I are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was.”
“Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I’m a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother. Our family will miss her dearly, and we thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.”
Her death came after the former first lady announced that she would no longer continue medical treatment after a series of hospitalizations in the last few years. Bush was last hospitalized for bronchitis in January of 2017 alongside her husband, who was being treated in the ICU.
“Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors, Mrs. Bush, now age 92, has decided not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care,” the statement read.
It continued, “It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others. She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.”
The New York native and longtime Texas resident first served as America’s second lady during her husband’s tenure as vice president under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989. Upon President Bush’s election in 1989, she became the first lady until her husband left office in 1993.
Bush’s son George W. Bush was also president of the United States, serving from 2001 until 2009. Her son Jeb Bush was the 43rd governor of Florida, and also a 2016 Republican presidential candidate. The couple also shared sons Neil, Marvin and daughter Dorothy — daughter Robin died after a battle with leukemia in 1953 — as well as 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
At only 16, Bush met her husband – who was then a senior at Massachusetts’ Phillips Academy – at a Christmas dance. When the former president was deployed as a Navy pilot after their engagement, Bush entered women’s liberal arts school Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Upon his return, Bush opted not to complete her studies, and the pair wed on Jan. 6, 1945.
After traveling the country while the former president trained with his squadron during World War II, the couple moved to Connecticut. There, the former president attended Yale University, and they welcomed first child George.
Upon the former president’s graduation, the family relocated again to Texas, ultimately laying down roots in the oil industry. The couple welcomed the rest of their six children between 1949 and 1959, all while managing moves throughout the state and country. According to the White House, the Bushes ultimately relocated 29 times through the first 44 years of their marriage.
Former President Bush began his political career in the ’60s, first serving as the Harris County, Texas, Chairman of the Republican Party in 1964. In 1966 he was elected to the House of Representatives, and in 1971 appointed as Ambassador to the United Nations. From 1973 to 1974, he was the chairman of the Republican National Committee before becoming an envoy to China and, eventually, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
When her husband became Vice President in 1981, Bush embraced her role as second lady, ultimately focusing on literacy as her special cause. She would later start the nonprofit the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which advocates for helping parents and their children learn the basic educational skills of reading and writing.
Said Bush, “The American Dream is about equal opportunity for everyone who works hard. If we don’t give everyone the ability to simply read and write, then we aren’t giving everyone an equal chance to succeed.”
Bush also dedicated her time as second and first lady to AIDS advocacy, aiding the homeless and school volunteer programs. In later years, Bush served as an emeritus public trustee for the Mayo Clinic.
In addition, the former First Lady wrote multiple children’s books and published a memoir – Barbara Bush: A Memoir and Reflections: Life After the White House – in 2003. In 1992 she also authored Millie’s Book, written from the perspective of the first dog.
Known for her wit and fortitude, Bush spent her final years with her husband in their homes Houston, Texas, and Kennebunkport, Maine. When asked if she planned to follow her skydiving husband’s lead and take a leap on her milestone 90th birthday in 2015, the former First Lady quipped to PEOPLE, “I’m too smart to jump out of a perfectly good plane. I am not jumping out of an airplane. I am not an idiot. The whole family is coming for my birthday, which will be fun.”