The Legacy of Barbara Bush

April 16, 2018, 11:15 am EST | Share:

MAINE (KIM BLOCK, WGME-TV) — It was announced over the weekend that former First Lady Barbara Bush was dealing with serious health issues and has decided to forego medical treatment. Instead, she plans to focus on comfort care at her home in Texas where she is surrounded by family.

We are taking a look back at Barbara Bush’s long-lasting legacy.

The former First Lady’s connection to Maine began when she married, as she is quoted saying, “The first man I ever kissed,” George Herbert Walker Bush. She was just 19-years-old and the year was 1945.

That is when she and the former President began spending their summers at the family home on Walkers Point in Kennebunkport, a tradition that has continued for decades.

“For instance, some of us have 13 grandchildren who come for the summer,” she said in an interview in 1995, shortly after she had learned that Maine Medical Center wanted to name its new children’s hospital after her.

“I said to George, ‘isn’t that the funniest thing?’ they came to urge me to do it,” she said. “Something so exciting, so flattering, as though I’d say ‘oh, no. No thank you.’ They’ve stretched my life”

The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital is a lasting legacy to a woman who knew the pain of losing a child. She and her husband lost their daughter, Pauline Robinson, to leukemia at the age of three.

It was at a time when family visiting hours were restricted.

“It makes an enormous difference, you know, George and I had a child who was sick and we had definite visiting hours,” she recalled. “It wasn’t really until the very end that we were allowed to be with her all the time. First of all, it helps the child — they are frightened in a hospital — and today, we now know that having parents there makes an enormous difference.”

Mrs. Bush has remained connected to the hospital. Combining her love of children with another of her great passions, literacy.

She reads to children at the hospital every summer and supports literacy efforts through the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation in Maine.

The foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to literacy programs across Maine.

“If we don’t teach our children to read and to write and understand, and we don’t teach mother’s and father’s how important parenting is, our country is going to be in terrible shape,” Bush said.

Over the past few years, Mrs. Bush has kept a lower profile. Though she and her husband continue to be active members of the Kennebunkport community.

She is often seen wearing her signature pearls, even donating a strand to the George and Barbara Bush Center at the University of New England.

It is a life-long love of Maine that began when she found the love of a lifetime.

“That is what George Bush has done for me. Allowed me to have hospitals named after me and introduced me to world leaders – pretty exciting,” said Bush.

Barbara Bush also has ties to the Lowcountry. She attended boarding school at Ashley Hall from 1940 to 1943.

The school posted a photograph and message on their Facebook page saying; “Thinking of Barbara Pierce Bush ’43, and the entire Bush family, during this difficult time. Please know the Ashley Hall family has you in their thoughts and prayers.”

Ashley Hall says the photo was taken during the former First Lady’s last visit to the school in 2016.