Barbara Bush thorough in preserving precious memories

Not only did much of former First Lady Barbara Bush’s life play out before our eyes in front of television and newspaper cameras, most of it is also documented by her own hand in well-kept scrapbooks.  

One photo shows Mrs. Bush lounging in her bathing suit in 1965 while another shows her attending a ball with President Bush attending the Pink Elephant ball in Corpus Christi.

“We have 118 scrapbooks all together,” says George Bush Presidential Library archivist Mary Finch. She has been archiving photos and videos for the Bush family over a period of 25 years.

When she first started thumbing through Mrs. Bush’s scrapbooks, Finch could not believe the former First Lady actually put these together herself.

“When I asked her about it after several years, she said no, she did every bit of it herself,” adds Finch.

Another scrapbook item includes a letter that Barbara Bush saved from the 1960s. She actually wrote and mailed thousands of letters telling Houstonians why they should vote for her husband who had launched a Congressional campaign during that decade.

“She did 73,000 letters handwritten, hand-stamped, hand-stuffed and hand-sealed and that was November 1966,” describes Finch.

Barbara Bush started scrapbooking in 1943 when she was still Barbara Pierce. George H.W. Bush and Barbara were engaged after they met at a high school Christmas dance.

Mrs. Bush kept the dance card from their first meeting as well as a letter she wrote to President Bush after he invited her to attend a prom.

“It sure is swell of you to invite me,” reads Finch from that letter.

Those words are a perfect example of Mrs. Barbara Bush, an elegant class act.

“I thought that he considered Mrs. Bush the most wonderful person in the world,” says George Bush Presidential Library volunteer Mary Smith. As a longtime volunteer, Smith has had the opportunity to meet President and Mrs. Bush on several occasions.

Once when they visited the library with their dogs, a young boy tried playing with the presidential puppies in the courtyard.

“And of course they would run from him and Mrs. Bush walked out there and saw it,” describes Smith. “She walked up to the little boy and took him by the hand and led him over to the freedom statue, sat him down, sat down beside him, put her dogs in her lap.”

Mrs. Bush sat talking with the child and letting him play with the dogs as long as he wanted.

“She’s done a lot over the years for children,” says George Bush Presidential Library director of marketing and communications David Anaya.

Barbara Bush was a mother to six children: George W., Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Dorothy and Robin, who died of leukemia at just three years old. President and Mrs. Bush also have 14 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.  

“She’s been in charge of everything,” adds Smith. “He had his job and his position and she was mom.”

In addition to her own children, Barbara Bush seemed to have love in her heart for every child. 

“Her big thing is we can improve families if we can improve literacy and improving family is so important,” says Finch.

“Family literacy has been important to the First Lady for many, many years,” adds Anaya. “It was her cause as First Lady. She actually started the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. One of her things is universal literacy around the world.” 

Barbara Bush became well-loved all over the world. She will now be laid to rest by her daughter Robin on the grounds of the George Bush Presidential Library.