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George and Barbara Bush, a ‘storybook’ 73-year marriage

‘Still in the love with the man I married 72 years ago,’ Barbara Bush said of her incredible relationship with George HW Bush shortly before she passed away at her home in Houston on Tuesday.

The simple, yet poignant, statement is a testament to the couple’s incredible love story, which began at a Christmas dance in Connecticut when they were both teenagers, and went on to span nearly 80 years.

During that time, the couple faced triumphs and heartache together, both personal and professional, had six children, including President George W Bush, and 17 grandkids, eventually becoming the longest-married couple in presidential history. 

A love that stood the test of time: George and Barbara Bush, pictured in February 2017, were married for an incredible 73 years, having tied the knot on January 6, 1945

Memories: The former president and first lady wed at a church in Rye, New York, which was the bride's hometown, just weeks after he returned from World War II 

Memories: The former president and first lady wed at a church in Rye, New York, which was the bride’s hometown, just weeks after he returned from World War II 

On Tuesday evening, the former president issued a short statement about his wife’s death, paying tribute to the ‘relentless proponent of family literacy’. 

The announcement came just days after it was announced that Barbara had been admitted to hospital for congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Soon after, she made the decision to refuse further treatment, and return home to be with her husband and family.  

As family, friends, and political leaders both past and present paid public tribute to Barbara, her enduring love for her husband and her phenomenal devotion to her family were given due respect and praise by many. 

Her grandson George P. Bush described her as a ‘top adviser and confidante’ to his grandfather, while President Donald Trump and his wife Melania spoke of Barbara’s ‘unfailing’ service to her country and family. 

But it was Barbara herself who perhaps described it best, offering an intimate insight into her relationship with George in a romantic essay penned for her alma mater’s magazine, which was published just last month.  

‘I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago,’ she wrote at the time, before later going on to say: ‘George Bush has given me the world. He is the best — thoughtful and loving.’  

The couple’s relationship is a true love story, which granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager described Monday as ‘remarkable.’

Honoring her grandparents’ rock-solid relationship on the Today show, the 36-year-old NBC correspondent revealed that Barbara was spending her final days by George’s side, ‘the man she’s loved for over 73 years’. 

‘They are surrounded by family, but I think the fact that they’re together and that he still says, “I love you Barbie” every night is pretty remarkable,’ she added.      

'My darling Bar': The couple stayed in touch during the war by writing each other love letters, in which George spoke of his 'immeasurable joy' at knowing he would one day marry her

'My darling Bar': The couple stayed in touch during the war by writing each other love letters, in which George spoke of his 'immeasurable joy' at knowing he would one day marry her

‘My darling Bar’: The couple stayed in touch during the war by writing each other love letters, in which George spoke of his ‘immeasurable joy’ at knowing he would one day marry her

 Sentimental: He signed off his letters 'Poppy', and joked that he was her 'public fiance as of 12/12/43' after their engagement was officially announced in the newspaper

 Sentimental: He signed off his letters ‘Poppy’, and joked that he was her ‘public fiance as of 12/12/43’ after their engagement was officially announced in the newspaper

Raising a family: George HW and Barbara had six children during their marriage, including future president George W Bush (pictured) 

Raising a family: George HW and Barbara had six children during their marriage, including future president George W Bush (pictured) 

Support system: Barbara was by her husband's side throughout his career. They are pictured on June 6, 1964 when George was running as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate

Support system: Barbara was by her husband’s side throughout his career. They are pictured on June 6, 1964 when George was running as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate

The former president was a naval aviator in training when they met.

‘I’m not much at recalling what people wear, but that particular occasion stands out in my memory,’ he says in his autobiography.

The band was playing Glenn Miller tunes and he asked a friend from Rye, New York, if he knew the girl across the room in the green and red holiday dress. The friend introduced him to Barbara Pierce, a publisher’s daughter from Rye who was going to school in South Carolina.

The next song was a waltz.

‘Since I didn’t waltz, we sat the dance out. And several more after that, talking and getting to know each other,’ George H.W. Bush said. ‘It was a storybook meeting.’

Within eight months, they’d met each other’s families, were engaged in August 1943 and married Jan. 6, 1945, four months after Bush was shot down over the Pacific. He’d been the Navy’s youngest aviator when he got his wings and carried the name ‘Barbara’ on his Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber.

After the war, he attended Yale and they moved to Texas. Her husband made his mark in the oil business as the couple grew their family and turned to politics, a journey that would take them around the world and into the White House.

‘You have given me joy that few men know,’ George Bush wrote to her, according to a collection of letters published in 1999.

‘I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband,’ he also said.

Photos taken of the couple by The Associated Press over the decades have captured moments of care, such as when Barbara Bush applied sunscreen to the 41st president’s nose at a 2015 baseball game between the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners; and candor, notably after Bush stepped on his wife’s toe in 1989 while boarding Air Force One.

Their marriage also has endured more serious trials.

A daughter, Robin, died in 1953 of leukemia a few weeks before her 4th birthday.

Barbara Bush has recalled a bout of depression in the mid-1970s.

‘Night after night, George held me weeping in his arms while I tried to explain my feelings,’ she said. ‘I almost wonder why he didn’t leave me.’

Just last year, allegations surfaced that Bush, who for more than five years has used a wheelchair for mobility, inappropriately touched more than a half dozen women on their buttocks as they stood next to him to take photos.

Through McGrath, Bush issued repeated apologies ‘to anyone he has offended.’

‘George Bush simply does not have it in his heart to knowingly cause anyone distress,’ McGrath said.

Also last year, they both wound up in the same Houston hospital – the former president with pneumonia; his wife with bronchitis.

In 2013, she told C-SPAN in an interview that they pray aloud each night ‘and sometimes we fight over whose turn it is.’

In the same conversation, she said she didn’t fear death for herself or ‘my precious George.’

‘I know there is a great God, and I’m not worried,’ she said.

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 1989, file photo, first lady Barbara Bush reacts after President George H.W. Bush accidentally stepped on her toe while boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for a flight to New Jersey. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush's relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as "remarkable." They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi, File)

FILE – In this Sept. 22, 1989, file photo, first lady Barbara Bush reacts after President George H.W. Bush accidentally stepped on her toe while boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for a flight to New Jersey. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush’s relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as ‘remarkable.’ They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 1997, file photo, former President George Bush hugs his wife, Barbara, after his address during the dedication of the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. With her husband still at her side, Barbara Bush has decided to decline further medical treatment for health problems and focus instead on "comfort care" at their home in Houston. Family spokesman Jim McGrath disclosed Barbara Bush's decision Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

FILE – In this Nov. 6, 1997, file photo, former President George Bush hugs his wife, Barbara, after his address during the dedication of the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. With her husband still at her side, Barbara Bush has decided to decline further medical treatment for health problems and focus instead on ‘comfort care’ at their home in Houston. Family spokesman Jim McGrath disclosed Barbara Bush’s decision Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

FILE - In this May 5, 2010 file photo, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, right, kisses his wife, Barbara, after both were shown on the stadium kiss cam video board during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Houston. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush's relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as "remarkable." They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

FILE – In this May 5, 2010 file photo, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, right, kisses his wife, Barbara, after both were shown on the stadium kiss cam video board during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Houston. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush’s relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as ‘remarkable.’ They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 3, 1988 file photo, Vice President George H.W. Bush, right, and his Barbara Bush, holding the family dog, talk to reporters after a press conference outside their home in Washington, D.C. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush's relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as "remarkable." They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE – In this Sept. 3, 1988 file photo, Vice President George H.W. Bush, right, and his Barbara Bush, holding the family dog, talk to reporters after a press conference outside their home in Washington, D.C. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush’s relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as ‘remarkable.’ They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - In this March 25, 1997, file photo, former President George H.W. Bush gets a hug from his wife Barbara after he made a successful parachute jump at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground outside of Yuma, Ariz. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush's relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as "remarkable." They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/Mike Nelson, Pool, File)

FILE – In this March 25, 1997, file photo, former President George H.W. Bush gets a hug from his wife Barbara after he made a successful parachute jump at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground outside of Yuma, Ariz. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush’s relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as ‘remarkable.’ They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/Mike Nelson, Pool, File)

FILE - In this May 3, 2015, file photo, Barbara Bush applies sunscreen to the nose of her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, before the Seattle Mariners take on the Houston Astros in a baseball game in Houston, Texas. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush's relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as "remarkable." They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/George Bridges, File)

FILE – In this May 3, 2015, file photo, Barbara Bush applies sunscreen to the nose of her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, before the Seattle Mariners take on the Houston Astros in a baseball game in Houston, Texas. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush’s relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as ‘remarkable.’ They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/George Bridges, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2004 file photo, former President George Bush, right, gives a thumbs-up while he and his wife, Barbara, left, attend the Tennis Masters Cup tournament in Houston. With her husband still at her side, Barbara Bush has decided to decline further medical treatment for health problems and focus instead on "comfort care" at their home in Houston. Family spokesman Jim McGrath disclosed Barbara Bush's decision Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

FILE – In this Nov. 16, 2004 file photo, former President George Bush, right, gives a thumbs-up while he and his wife, Barbara, left, attend the Tennis Masters Cup tournament in Houston. With her husband still at her side, Barbara Bush has decided to decline further medical treatment for health problems and focus instead on ‘comfort care’ at their home in Houston. Family spokesman Jim McGrath disclosed Barbara Bush’s decision Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2004, file photo, former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush listen as the president accepts the party nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York. With her husband still at her side, Barbara Bush has decided to decline further medical treatment for health problems and focus instead on "comfort care" at their home in Houston. Family spokesman Jim McGrath disclosed Barbara Bush's decision Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

FILE – In this Sept. 2, 2004, file photo, former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush listen as the president accepts the party nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York. With her husband still at her side, Barbara Bush has decided to decline further medical treatment for health problems and focus instead on ‘comfort care’ at their home in Houston. Family spokesman Jim McGrath disclosed Barbara Bush’s decision Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

FILE - In this June 12, 2012 file photo, President George H.W. Bush, and his wife former first lady Barbara Bush, arrive for the premiere of HBO's new documentary on his life near the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush's relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as "remarkable." They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

FILE – In this June 12, 2012 file photo, President George H.W. Bush, and his wife former first lady Barbara Bush, arrive for the premiere of HBO’s new documentary on his life near the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush’s relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as ‘remarkable.’ They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 1991, file photo, Barbara Bush watches as President George Bush reels in a fish aboard their boat Fidelity, just off shore from their Vacation home at Walkers Point in Kennebunkport, Me. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush's relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as "remarkable." They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE – In this Aug. 7, 1991, file photo, Barbara Bush watches as President George Bush reels in a fish aboard their boat Fidelity, just off shore from their Vacation home at Walkers Point in Kennebunkport, Me. Former first couple George and Barbara Bush’s relationship is a true love story, described by granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager as ‘remarkable.’ They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18. Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, with Barbara Bush declining further medical care for health problems, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)



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