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Barbara Pierce met George Bush at a Christmas dance just days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and America entered World War II.

If it wasn’t love at first sight, it was love really quick. Barbara described her first visit to the Bush vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, in this way: “We rode bikes, went to the beach, played tennis, collected seashells, and had marvelous picnics. At night, Poppy [George’s nickname in his family] and I walked on the rocks and watched the moon come up . . . I can’t speak for George Bush, but I fell madly in love.”

Six months after George and Barbara met, eighteen-year-old George enlisted in the U.S. Navy, becoming its youngest commissioned pilot. Two years after that, his plane was shot down by enemy fire while he flew a mission over the Pacific. He parachuted into the ocean and a submarine rescued him.

George and Barbara planned a December wedding for that same year (1944). As Barbara said: “In wartime the rules change. You don’t wait until tomorrow to do anything.”

However, they did have to wait for a few “tomorrows.” The Navy kept changing George’s return date. Finally, they scratched out December 17 and wrote in the sixth of January on their invitations.

The Wedding Invitation

This is Barbara’s wedding portrait, along with the brooch her mother wore to the wedding.

Barbara Bush, the Bride
Barbara Bush, the Bride

Young George Bush expressed his feelings about his bride this way:

“I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life.
How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you.”

“I haven’t had the chance to make many shrewd moves in my young life
but when I married Bar, I hit the proverbial jackpot.”

In months the war was over and, according to George:

“We jumped and yelled and cried like kids.
We were kids — seasoned by war, but kids.”

“People everywhere were crying and laughing.
Barbara and I slipped into a little chapel.
I remember thinking about all my buddies who had died,
and I remember squeezing Bar’s hand
and thanking God one more time
for letting me live to see this day.”

Like her husband, Barbara Bush grew up in a nurturing family. Her mother collected antiques, gardened (she worked in a victory garden during World War II), played the violin, and did needlepoint. At the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, we saw a beautiful piece she created.

My photo is a bit fuzzy, but here it is.
My photo is a bit fuzzy, but here it is.

We learned that Barbara has continued that art herself. Here is a purse she made:

George Bush Library 153

Mrs. Pierce served in many volunteer organizations and taught Sunday School. Barbara said this about her mother:

“My mother was a striking beauty who left the world
a more beautiful place than she found it.”

Barbara followed the example of her own mother, but she also loved her husband George by loving his mother and learning from her, too. This is what Barbara’s younger brother Scott Pierce said about their relationship: “Barbara developed a warm relationship with George’s mother Dorothy . . . Dorothy was spectacular, high energy, took great care of her husband and children, and was extraordinarily loyal — Bar took a lot of her attributes and tried to make them her own.”

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior,
not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine,
teaching what is good,
so that they may encourage the young women
to love their husbands, to love their children,
to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind,
being subject to their own husbands,
so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
Titus 2:3-5

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One comment

  1. I have always enjoyed reading the articles you post about our presidents and their families, e.g., Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan. These about the Bushes are no different.
    Although I did not agree with some political choices and policies made, I have always admired them on a personal level. Both George H.W. and Barbara Bush struck me as such genuine, kind, decent, and likeable people. People of integrity. Your articles have only served to underscore my initial assessment.
    Election Day of 1988 was two days after my eighteenth birthday. I remember the feeling the thrill and satisfaction of being able to add my little voice to the nation’s. I can’t say that this year’s choices are…stellar. But, despite the dearth of great options, it’s still great to exercise my right to vote.
    Thanks again for all you do.

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