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Love between George H.W. Bush, Babs withstands time

Meeting at 1941 dance leads to more than 75 years together

Former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush sit together on day two of the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center on September 2, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush sit together on day two of the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center on September 2, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

HOUSTON – When George Herbert Walker Bush was a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1941, he noticed Barbara "Babs" Pierce at a dance.

"George Bush sees her and asks a friend to introduce them," said Warren Finch, director of the George H.W. Bush Library and Museum. "So they start to dance and a waltz comes on, and George says, 'I don't know how to waltz. Can we sit down and talk?'"

Less than two years later, before Bush went off to war as a pilot in the U.S. Navy, he and Pierce got engaged.

"If you read some of those letters that President Bush wrote, when he was that fighter pilot, and those letters were sent back to his mother saying, 'I love Barbara. Do you think she's going to be there for me when I get home?'" Finch said.

As we all know, Babs did wait for Bush, but planning a wedding wasn't easy.

"You'll notice that the date is penciled in," Finch said. "They were originally going to get married on Dec. 17, but he couldn't get back to get married, so they had the date of the wedding printed onto the wedding invitation."

The couple finally married Jan. 6, 1945. They went on to have six children over 13 years.

"They loved each other," said Andrew Card, former White House chief of staff. "They laughed together. They cried together. They carried burdens together."

When Bush decided he wanted to get into politics, Babs stayed by his side.

"I would say that (Barbara) is the one who would dream, and have the visions for our country, or the visions of the right thing to do, and I think she is the straight shooter," former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said. "She doesn't mince words. She has an opinion, and she's so darling about giving that opinion that you just can't help but love her."

And love her Bush did. 

"Well, that love affair went on and on and on and on, and the nice thing is, the Bushes invited us to be part of it," Card said.


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