Bush remembered locally as a gentleman politician, maybe the last of his kind

Former U.S. President George Bush visits a tent camp for earthquake survivors on the outskirts of Islamabad on January 17, 2006 in Pakistan.
Former U.S. President George Bush visits a tent camp for earthquake survivors on the outskirts of Islamabad on January 17, 2006 in Pakistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)

News 6 partner Florida Today sat down with some locals who shared their stories of President George Bush Sr., who died Friday night.

How is this is for a surreal night?

In the early 1990s, a few months after the start of Operation Desert Storm, Glenn Gilbert was cooking at the exclusive Club Colette in Palm Beach when President George Bush Sr. walked ventured into the kitchen.

Gilbert, now the executive chef at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, remembered clearly the gangly president introducing himself and then asking if he could have one of the lamb chops Gilbert was grilling.

"He reached over, grabbed it off the grill and starting eating it — just like one of the guys," Gilbert recalled, noting that also coming back to the kitchen that night was First Lady Barbara Bush and current President Donald Trump, the latter handing everyone in the kitchen a $200 tip.

"It was all such an amazing, awesome experience," Gilbert said.

The Bush family, and Trump, were at Club Colette that evening for a $10,000-a-plate fundraiser for son Jeb Bush who was running for governor in Florida.

As the world mourns the death of Bush, father to a former president and popular Florida governor, a few people on the Space Coast recalled him as a gentleman statesman, the  likes of which you really don't see much of these days.

They paint a picture of someone who though coming from a wealthy and politically connected family in Massachusetts saw duty to his country as a top priority.

Because of Bush's background as a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a number of Space Coast residents who are members of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, Florida Satellite Chapter, had some unique insight into Bush as a leader.

Molly Tasker, a former Melbourne City Council member and a retired operations officer with the CIA, met Bush in the 1970s when he became director of the agency. At the time, the CIA was being heavily scrutinized by lawmakers and morale among the agency workers was extremely low.

"He was like a breath of fresh air coming in," said Tasker, who officially retired from the agency in 1995. "Everyone was sort of relieved. He listened, which is extremely important at the CIA. And he was very respectful."

Jack Lee, a case officer for the CIA for 34 years, said at the agency "Bush was not only well regarded, he was loved."

Lee, who now lives in Viera, said Bush was "one of the best directors, in my opinion, that we have ever had."

And while Bush came from an established and wealthy family, Lee said the former president carried a sense of "noblesse oblige."

"That with privilege comes responsibility," Lee said.