On April 17, 2018, after battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and Graves’ disease, Barbara Bush passed away at her home in Houston, Texas at the age of 92. During a long and meaningful life, Barbara Bush served as both the First and Second Lady of the United States. During her tenure as First Lady, Bush dedicated herself to the cause of universal literacy and eventually founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
Born in New York City, Barbara Bush (née Pierce) met George H.W. Bush when she was just 16 years old. The couple announced their engagement 18 months later and married when George returned from World War II, where he served as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot and named three of his planes after his beloved Barbara.
The young couple moved to Texas after George completed his bachelor’s degree at Yale University, eventually settling in Midland in 1950. It was there that George built a lucrative business and went on to launch the Zapata Corporation with several colleagues in the field of oil and gas. It was during this time that Barbara became a prominent figure in the oil and gas industry, supporting her husband and his business endeavors at every turn.
A little over a decade after relocating to Texas, the Bushes began their public life as a powerful political couple. George was elected Harris County Republican Party chairman in 1963. While he did not win his run for U.S. Senator the following year, George and Barbara sustained a decades-long political presence eventually leading the couple to the White House.
As a political wife, Barbara Bush set an incredible example. In her spare time, Barbara volunteered at a hospice. Upon learning about widespread illiteracy issues in the United States, she worked with several organizations to address and solve this problem. Her tireless work earned Barbara dozens of honorary degrees from colleges and universities across the country.
Though she was a registered Republican, she always considered both sides of any issue. For example, while the GOP remained staunchly against abortion, Barbara declared that she was pro-choice in 1980.
“I want to be known as a wife, a mother, a grandmother,” she wrote in 1988. “That’s what I am. And I’d like to be known as someone who really cared about people and worked very, very hard to make America more literate.”
Kind, graceful, elegant, thoughtful, and driven, Barbara Bush was a person to admire, and her loss is one that the entire world mourns. She is survived by her husband, five children, and 14 grandchildren. Her funeral will be held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas on Saturday, April 21, with a burial at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station.