Stories

Barbara Bush was "the first lady of the Greatest Generation"

The Bush family together at the funeral
Two presidents watch as the coffin of Barbara Bush is placed in a hearse. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

From historian Jon Meacham's eulogy for Barbara Pierce Bush — "the first lady of the Greatest Generation — during yesterday's funeral at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston:

"From the White House to Camp David to Walker’s Point, in hours of war and of peace, of tumult and of calm, the Bushes governed with congeniality, with civility, and with grace. Instinctively generous, Barbara and George Bush put country above party, the common good above political gain, and service to others above the settling of scores."
  • "Barbara Bush was the first lady of the Greatest Generation. As the fiancée and then the wife of a World War II naval aviator, she waited and prayed in the watches of the night."
  • "During the war she worked at a nuts-and-bolts factory in Port Chester, New York, doing her part. And she joined George H.W. Bush in the great adventure of postwar Texas, moving to distant Odessa — 70 summers ago."
  • "And as the wife of one president and as the mother of another, she holds a distinction that belongs to only one other American: Abigail Adams, who was present at the creation."
  • "The couple had met at a Christmas dance in Greenwich in 1941, not quite three weeks after Pearl Harbor. She was wearing a red-and-green holiday dress; he endeavored to get introduced. She was 16; he was 17. He was the only boy she ever kissed. Her children, she remarked, always wanted to throw up when they heard that."
  • "When she once unwisely described a female political opponent of her husband’s [Geraldine Ferraro] as a word that rhymed with 'rich,' she reported her family had started referring to her as the 'Poet Laureate.'"
  • "And she loved the story of how, when her eldest son, the 43rd president, took up painting, his instructor asked him if he’d ever used the color 'burnt umber.' No, Bush 43 replied, but he didremember that from his mother’s cooking. 'Brings down the house,' she’d say, approvingly."
  • "Mother and son needled each other to the end. In her final days, while the 43rd president was visiting, Mrs. Bush asked one of the doctors if they’d like to know why George W. was the way he was, announcing: 'I smoked and drank while I was pregnant with him.'"

Go deeper: Official site with biography, timeline and more.