'Still in Love' After 73 Years: See Barbara and George H.W. Bush's Epic Love Story in Photos
Barbara and George met in 1941 at a dance when she was 16 and he was 17. However, the couple didn't do much dancing — instead they sat and talked, and quickly realized how well they got along. “We sat the dance out,” George later said of their first interaction. “And several more after that, talking and getting to know each other. It was a storybook meeting.”
After a year and a half of dating, the couple got engaged. But they weren't able to marry quickly, as George was heading overseas to fight in World War II as a Navy pilot. While serving, he named three of his planes after his bride-to-be.
They eventually did marry on Jan. 6, 1945, while George was on leave. "I married the first man I ever kissed,'' Barbara later said of their union. ''When I tell this to my children, they just about throw up.'' The couple spent the early months of their marriage traveling for George's military service, living in Michigan and Virginia, his Navy squadron training.
The couple quickly grew their family, welcoming son George W. in 1946, daughter Robin in 1949 and son Jeb in 1953. However, tragedy struck when Robin, at just three years old, was diagnosed with leukemia. Though the Bushes traveled across the country to seek treatment for their daughter, she died just a few weeks before she would have turned four years old.
The Bushes moved to Texas in 1950, and George built himself a career in the oil and gas industry. They continued to grow their family, welcoming three more children: Neil, Dorothy and Marvin.
However, it didn't take long for George to set his sights on a political career, first winning the job of Harris County Republican Party chairman in 1963 before running for U.S. Senate in 1964, an election he lost.
George successfully ran for Congress in 1966. He was often away on the campaign trail, and while Barbara predominantly stayed home with their children, she'd join him on the road for some events. This new position brought them into the Washington circle, where George would go onto serve in several other positions, including the United States ambassador to the United Nations and chairman of the Republican National Committee.
In 1974, the Bushes moved to China as George took on the job of head of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing. The couple were often spotted biking together around the city. But his next government job, as director of the CIA, put a strain on their relationship: Because of the top-secret nature of his work, George couldn't talk about his job with his wife.
By 1980, the Bushes had made their way to top of the American political world — though not in the way they originally anticipated. After George ran for president in 1980, he ended up withdrawing from the race early and later being named Ronald Reagan's vice president.
And then in 1988, George ran again for president, and won. Barbara was by his side during the campaign, and continued the advocacy work for literacy issues that she began during his campaign.
They left the White House after George was defeated for reelection in 1992 by President Bill Clinton. The Bushes moved back to Texas, and also spent time at their family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. "One of the reasons I made the most important decision of my life to marry George Bush is because he made me laugh," Barbara said of their relationship during a speech at Wellesley College in 1990. "It's true, sometimes we've laughed through our tears, but that shared laughter has been one of our strongest bonds."
The Bush family was once more in the political spotlight come 2000, when the couple's eldest son, George W., ran for president. He, of course, went onto win the election. Barbara would later campaign for her younger son, Jeb Bush, in the 2016 presidential election.
The Bushes have 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Their marriage, which lasted 73 years, is the longest-lasting in American presidential history.
Until Barbara's last days on earth, her love for her husband remained strong. "I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago," she wrote in an update about her life for her alma mater Smith College's alumni magazine. "George Bush has given me the world. He is the best — thoughtful and loving." The former first lady died at the age of 92 on April 17, 2018.