KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (NECN) — President George H.W. Bush may have lived in a gated compound on the coast of Maine, but he was always sure to get out into the community, forming lasting friendships with everyone from business owners to wait staff in the Kennebunkport area.
"I call him George, because he told us to," said Cathy Koppstein, who runs Barnacle Billy's, a family business in Ogunquit.
For as long as she can remember, her family has been serving the Bush's.
"Every one of them is so down to earth, especially him," she said of the 41st president.
Bush would often bring his boat up to Perkins Cove and enjoy a meal at Barnacle Billy's with family members or guests like President Bill Clinton, Tom Brady, and Mikhail Gorbechav, the last president of the Soviet Union. Koppstein said Bush would always order steamers with red wine vinegar, butter and broth — a dish her father, restaurant owner Billy Tower Jr., introduced Bush to.
"[Bush] knew my father had a lot of values like him," said Koppstein. "They just connected and he felt comfortable here."
The many photos of the Bush family with Koppstein's family show how close they became. When Billy died a few years ago, Koppstein said the former president took the time to write the family a heart felt letter. She says it's an act of kindness that perfectly describes the man they now mourn.
"[The President's death] was almost like bringing it back again that our dad died, because that's the kind of person he was to us here," she said.
Another favorite spot for George and Barbara Bush was The Hurricane Restaurant in Kennebunkport. Owner Luanne MacDonald said Mrs. Bush liked to order the pumpkin ravioli — and Mr. Bush would always order a three-course meal.
"President Bush had a very good appetite," MacDonald laughed.
She admits when the first family dined with them, there was some added pressure — but it was always a pleasure for her staff and guests.
"It was extraordinary for us," she said. "He and Mrs. Bush went from table to table, greeting our guests, and they made everyone else feel extraordinary."