Barbara Bush, former first lady, advocate for universal literacy and longtime seasonal resident of Maine, has died at age 92, a spokesperson for the Bush family confirmed Tuesday night. Mrs. Bush was first lady from 1989 to 1993 while her husband, George H.W. Bush, served as the 41st President of the United States.
Barbara Bush was born on June 8, 1925, in New York City and raised in the nearby city of Rye. She met George H.W. at a Christmas dance in 1941 at the age of 16 and less than two years later they were engaged. They married in 1945 when George H.W., a Navy pilot, returned from World War II.
A year later while her husband attended Yale University, Mrs. Bush gave birth to her first child, future president George W. Bush The family would move numerous times before settling in Texas in 1950.
The national political spotlight began shining on Maine when George H.W. Bush was elected Ronald Reagan’s vice president in 1980, and it intensified after Bush was elected president in 1988.
► Photos: First Lady Barbara Bush through the years
Over the years it became a familiar sight: Barbara Bush visiting hospitals in Maine, often reading to children. It was a way of combining two of her passions — kids and literacy.
Mrs. Bush told NEWS CENTER she chose literacy as her cause as her husband was running for president. "I wanted a cause that would cost no government money, that would have a volunteer corps, and that would help the most Americans possible."
The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has distributed tens of millions of dollars in grants. The former first lady also gave her name and support to Maine's only children's hospital, founded in 1985 — The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
In her extraordinary position as a wife of one president and mother of another, Barbara Bush was fiercely loyal to her family, even as she admitted that she was skeptical of her son George W.'s prospects. "I told him he couldn't win if that's what you mean," Bush said with a somewhat straight face. "I told him he couldn't win as governor, either!"
Despite living much of her life in Texas, Barbara Bush's ties to Maine were always strong. In 2012, she and her husband told NEWS CENTER about why they loved their summers at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport. She said it has been important to them to be part of the community.
Her affection for Maine was returned. Mrs. Bush was overwhelmed by the surprise dedication of a garden in her honor. "I hope you know how much this means to me — I’m just so grateful."