Remembering Barbara Bush: the 'Leading Light' of Houston

| © U.S. National Archives / Flickr
Lauren Rogers

While the nation still mourns the loss of Barbara Bush, a former first lady and mother of a president, no city feels the pain more than her home, Houston.

Born in New York but a resident of Texas since the 1950s, the matriarch of the Bush political dynasty will be remembered as a woman who reflected her city: outspoken, strong, and accepting of others.

Her funeral service, held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church–where she and former President Bush once handed out coffee in the mornings–was attended by former presidents Obama and Clinton, their wives, and current First Lady, Melania Trump. Other dignitaries from around the world made the trip to Houston to honor the memory of Bar, as she was called, before she was laid to rest on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Library and Museum at Texas A&M University.

Even at 92-years-old, Barbara regularly walked in her Tanglewood neighborhood, often joined by her two little Maltipoos, Bibi and Mini-Me. A salt-of-the-earth, outspoken woman, Barbara was “best known to the world as the wife of a president and the mother of another,” said Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, “but in Houston we also knew her as a local leading light, an achiever in her own right who spoke and acted from the heart and the gut.”

Just a few of Barbara’s Houstonian living legacies: Barbara Bush branch library, Barbara Bush Elementary School, Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza, Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.

After Hurricane Harvey, Barbara, along with her daughter-in-law Laura, donated $2 million through their foundations to restore Houston’s libraries and send school supplies to those in need.

The Houston Astros and Rockets both released statements mourning the loss of one of their favorite fans. During Astros games, Barbara famously kept score throughout the game. She even signed a copy of her scoresheets for Mike Acosta to keep.

Houston Texans icon J.J. Watt called her a “beautiful light in this world.”

Although Barbara was living in a liberal-leaning city and the head of a Republican dynasty, she vibrantly connected to the political turnings of her home and her country. She openly supported the first gay mayor of Houston, Annise D. Parker, even telling her she “could have been a Bush.” She was also very outspoken about her feelings on the current political climate, saying, “I don’t know how any woman could vote for Trump.”

Barbara Bush’s influence will surely be felt for generations to come, with Texas serving as the foundation of her legacy. Russ Levenson, her personal pastor said it best, “One can’t underestimate the truly Godly qualities of Barbara Bush, that gentility, that humility, the quality of concern and care for others around her.” One single person might not understand, but the city of Houston, Texas always will.

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