Barbara and George Bush met at a Christmas dance, and 73 years later, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history.
George described the meeting in his autobiography. He was a naval aviator in training at the time and he asked a friend — over the band playing Glenn Miller songs — if he knew the girl across the room in a green and red holiday dress.
“I’m not much at recalling what people wear, but that particular occasion stands out in my memory,” he said.
The friend introduced 18-year-old George to 17-year-old Barbara Pierce who was going to school in South Carolina. The band switched to a waltz.
“Since I didn’t waltz, we sat the dance out. And several more after that, talking and getting to know each other,” George said. “It was a storybook meeting.”
They were engaged in August 1943 and married on Jan. 6, 1945 after George was shot down over the Pacific Ocean. He carried the name “Barbara” on his Gunman Avenger torpedo bomber.
All these years later, according to their granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager, George “still says, ‘I love you Barbie’ every night.” Well past 90 years of age, their love for each other seems to be unending.
George described Barbara as “the mainstay, of course, the parent who was always there to help solve the daily problems and emergencies of teen and preteen life.”
Barbara says that they are “the two luckiest people in the world, and when all the dust is settled and all the crowds are gone, the things that matter are faith, family and friends. We have been inordinately blessed, and we know that.”
The couple prays together each night “and sometimes we fight over whose turn it is,” Barbara told C-SPAN in 2013.
As a couple, Barbara and George have faced a lot of different trials — including the death of a daughter in 1953 — but the hardest may yet to come now that Barbara has declined further medical treatment.
Barbara has had a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure. She has been in and out of the hospital several times in the past year alone and it seems her decision has been made.
In her 2013 interview with C-Span, the former first lady said that she isn’t afraid of death for herself or “my precious George.”
“I know there is a great God, and I’m not worried,” she said.
In a series of letters published in 1999, George wrote to her, “You have given me joy that few men know. I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband.”
Whenever the great lady takes her last breath, it is clear that she will be leaving behind her doting husband who she says “is my hero.”
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