The peaceful final hours of George H.W Bush (seen above with wife Barbara in 2017) have been revealed by a friend
The peaceful final hours of George Herbert Walker Bush have been revealed, after the 41st president’s passed away aged 94 surrounded by family at his home in Houston, Texas.
James A Baker III, both Bush’s friend and former secretary of state, told the New York Times that Bush had been fading over the last week – spending most of his time sleeping, not eating and never getting out of bed.
Baker said that although the former president had defied death multiple times over the years – struggling with a form of Parkinson’s and being hospitalized with pneumonia several times in recent months – this time felt different.
Baker stopped by the Bush home on Friday to check on his old friend – or perhaps to say goodbye.
He said as soon as he entered the room, Bush perked up, asking: ‘Where are we going, Bake?’
Baker answered: ‘We’re going to heaven.’
‘That’s where I want to go,’ Bush replied.
Within 13 hours, the 94-year-old was on his way.
Friends and family flocked to Bush’s bedside on Friday evening as it became clear that the end was near.
Baker’s wife Susan was also there, along with Jean Becker, the former president’s longtime chief of staff; and the Rev Dr Russell Jones Levenson Jr, rector of St Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, and some nurses and doctors.
Acclaimed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan also asked to pay a visit, during which he sang ‘Silent Night’ while the former president mouthed the words. The singer then performed a Gaelic song.
Earlier on Friday, when Baker stopped by for a morning visit, he said Bush seemed to be on the rebound as he began eating again, enjoying three five-minute soft-boiled eggs, a bowl of yogurt and two fruit drinks.
‘Everybody thought this is going to be a great day and he’s back and he’s bounced back again,’ Baker told the Times.
James A Baker III, both Bush’s friend and former secretary of state, was by Bush’s side on Friday during his final hours. They are seen together above in 2011
Acclaimed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan (above with Bush in 2014) also asked to pay a visit, during which he sang ‘Silent Night’ while the former president mouthed the words
In his final moments he called loved ones to say goodbye. His final words were on a speaker phone call with son George W (right), whom he told: ‘I love you, too’
The 94-year-old died on Friday evening surrounded by friends and family (pictured together in August 2018) after expressing that he was ready to say goodbye
After Bush lost his wife of 73 years, Barbara, in April, he told friends he wasn’t ready to die yet, despite his Parkinson’s taking a severe toll on his ability to walk and speak.
He spent the summer at his family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, but was ‘somewhat diminished’ when he returned back to Houston in the fall.
Baker said the pair went out for oysters two weeks ago and ‘things sort of went downhill from there’.
On Thursday, Baker left at around 9.15am but returned in the evening as he and his wife were on their way to dinner.
‘He was sitting up in bed and was able to converse with people,’ Baker said.
However, it wasn’t long before they were on their way home from dinner and the Bakers received a phone call urging them to stop back by the house as Bush had ‘slipped considerably’ around 8.15pm.
Baker held his dear friend’s hand and rubbed his feet while prayers were said and children were called to tell their father goodbye Bush’s hand and rubbed his feet. Prayers were said. The other children were called so they could tell their father goodbye.
‘If those things could be sweet,’ Baker said, ‘it was sweet.’
His final conversation was a speaker phone call with his son, George W. Bush, who praised him as a ‘wonderful dad’ and told him that he loved him.
‘I love you, too,’ the father said – his last words on earth.
Speaking with the Times in a phone interview on Saturday, Baker said of Bush’s final moments: ‘I can’t even hardly talk about it without welling up. It was as gentle a passing as I think you could ever expect anyone to have. And he was ready.’
In the room at the time of Bush’s death at 10.10pm CST were his son Neil Bush and his wife Maria along with grandchildren Pierce and Marshall Bush.
Lauren Bush also paid tribute to her grandfather is a touching tribute on Saturday, posted on Instagram
The Bush family home in Houston, where the former president spent much of his final days sleeping, is circled above in red
This portrait shows the Bush family sitting in front of their home in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1986
Jenna Bush Hager shared a pair of touching tributes to her beloved grandfather on Saturday morning. In one photograph she and twin sister Barbara are standing on either side of Bush as all three of them flash wide grins
Jenna wrote on Instagram: ‘Waking up missing this giant of a man who gave me everything. ‘He taught me and my family about service, family, decency, the power of gentle words and a beautiful heart. I will miss him desperately but so happy he and my Grandmother are back together’
Former President Barack Obama visited him on Tuesday while in town for an event with Baker, but Bush struggled to get out of bed.
By Thursday, he had stopped eating and was losing weight – but insisted on not going back to the hospital – a place he’d become all too familiar with.
Granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager shared a pair of touching tributes to her beloved grandfather on Saturday morning, posting two joyful photos of them together on Instagram with the caption: ‘Waking up missing this giant of a man who gave me everything.
‘He taught me and my family about service, family, decency, the power of gentle words and a beautiful heart. I will miss him desperately but so happy he and my Grandmother are back together.’
One photo shows Jenna and her twin Barbara, both 37, flanking their grandfather as they all wear giant grins on their faces.
The second photo shows a young Jenna standing beside her cousins saluting a Christmas tree as the then-president smiles alongside them.
In a second Instagram post she shared a comic published this morning that showed Bush arriving in heaven via a WWII fighter jet and being greeted by his wife of 73 years Barbara, who passed away eight months ago, and the three-year-old daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953.
A speech bubble above Barbara says: ‘We waited for you.’
In the Instagram caption Jenna wrote: ‘This brought me such comfort this morning. I had the opportunity to talk with my grandpa about the afterlife. This is what he said: He answered without any hesitation. “Yes, I think about it. I used to be afraid. I used to be scared of dying. I used to worry about death. But now in some ways I look forward to it.”‘
Jenna continued: ‘And I started crying. I managed to choke out, “Well, why? What do you look forward to?” And he said, “Well, when I die I’m going to be reunited with these people that I’ve lost.” And I asked who he hoped to see He replied, ‘I hope I see Robin, and I hope I see [Barbara]. I haven’t yet figured out if it will be Robin as the three-year-old that she was this kind of chubby, vivacious child or if she’ll come as a middle-aged woman, an older woman.
‘And then he said, “I hope she’s the three-year-old.” Robin was the daughter of this giant of a man lost years before to leukemia. The little girl he held tightly, who spoke the phrase I have heard Gampy repeat for my entire life, forever knitting Robin’s voice into the tightly woven fabric of our family: “I love you more than tongue can tell.”‘
The American flag flies at half-staff at the White House, on Saturday in honor of the 41th president’s passing
Bush Snr is remembered fondly for his decades of service to America and the international community. Flowers sit at the base of his statue outside his Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, on Saturday morning
The statement announcing Bush Snr’s passing did not specify the cause of death, but he had long suffered from a form of Parkinson’s disease and had been hospitalized several times for pneumonia and other infections in recent years. Days before his death, Bush Snr was reportedly being treated for low blood pressure.
His eldest son George W Bush, the 43rd president, paid tribute to his father and the head of their political dynasty on behalf of his siblings, saying: ‘Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died.
‘George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared for and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens,’ the younger Bush added.
The White House issued a statement on Saturday confirming that the former president will have a state funeral.
‘The President and First Lady were notified late last night of President George H.W. Bush’s passing,’ the statement said. ‘President Trump is scheduled to speak with President George W. Bush this morning and offer his condolences on behalf of himself, the First Lady, and the entire country.
‘A state funeral is being arranged with all of the accompanying support and honors. The President will designate Wednesday, December 5th as a National Day Of Mourning. He and the First Lady will attend the funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.’
Jenna then shared another post with a comic published this morning that shows Bush Snr arriving in heaven via a WWII fighter jet and being greeted by his wife of 73 years Barbara, who passed away eight months ago, and the three-year-old daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953. A speech bubble above Barbara says: ‘We waited for you’
George Herbert Walker Bush was born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, into the New England elite, a world of prep schools, mansions and servants seemingly untouched by the Great Depression.
His father, Prescott Bush, the son of an Ohio steel magnate, made his fortune as an investment banker and later served 10 years as a senator from Connecticut.
George H.W. Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1942, right out of prep school. Lean and athletic at 6-foot-2, Bush became a war hero while still a teenager. One of the youngest pilots in the Navy, he flew 58 missions off the carrier USS San Jacinto.
He had to ditch one plane in the Pacific and was shot down on September 2, 1944, while completing a bombing run against a Japanese radio tower. An American submarine rescued Bush. His two crewmates perished. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery.
He returned home to marry his 19-year-old sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, daughter of the publisher of McCall’s magazine, in January 1945. They were the longest-married presidential couple in US history. She died on April 17, 2018.
After the war, Bush took just two and a half years to graduate from Yale, then headed west in 1948 to the oil fields of West Texas. Bush and partners helped found Zapata Petroleum Corp. in 1953. Six years later, he moved to Houston and became active in the Republican Party.
In politics, he showed the same commitment he displayed in business, advancing his career through loyalty and subservience.
George H.W. Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1942, right out of prep school. He is seen left as a Naval aviator cadet in 1943 and right as a young Navy pilot sometime between 1943 and 1945
One of the youngest pilots in the Navy, Bush Snr (pictured in 1944) flew 58 missions off the carrier USS San Jacinto
George and Barbara were the longest-married presidential couple in US, having been together for 73 years before her death
After the war, Bush took just two and a half years to graduate from Yale, where he was a first baseman and captain of the baseball team. He played in the first-ever College World Series in 1947
The son of a senator and father of a president, Bush was the man with the golden resume who rose through the political ranks: from congressman to U.N. ambassador, Republican Party chairman to envoy to China, CIA director to two-term vice president under the hugely popular Ronald Reagan.
He was first elected to Congress in 1966 and served two terms. President Richard Nixon appointed him ambassador to the United Nations, and after the 1972 election, named him chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Bush struggled to hold the party together as Watergate destroyed the Nixon presidency, then became ambassador to China and CIA chief in the Ford administration.
Bush made his first bid for president in 1980 and won the Iowa caucuses, but Reagan went on to win the nomination, picking Bush to be his running mate.
In the 1988 presidential race, Bush trailed the Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, by as many as 17 points that summer. He did little to help himself by picking Dan Quayle, a lightly regarded junior senator from Indiana, as a running mate.
But Bush soon became an aggressor, stressing patriotic themes and flailing Dukakis as an out-of-touch liberal. He carried 40 states, becoming the first sitting vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836.
He took office with the humility that was his hallmark.
‘Some see leadership as high drama, and the sound of trumpets calling, and sometimes it is that,’ he said at his inauguration. ‘But I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds.’
George H.W. Bush entered the White House in 1989 with a reputation as a man of indecision and indeterminate views. One news magazine suggested he was a ‘wimp.’
Bush, the son of a senator, joined the Republican Party in the late 1950s and quickly rose through its ranks. He is pictured while being sworn in as director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Gerald Ford in 1976
Bush was elected as the 41st president of the United States in 1988. He is seen standing in the White House Oval Office
But his work-hard, play-hard approach to the presidency won broad public approval. He held more news conferences in most months than Reagan did in most years.
The Iraq crisis of 1990-91 brought out all the skills Bush had honed in a quarter-century of politics and public service, and his popularity gained as a result.
After winning United Nations support and a green light from a reluctant Congress, Bush unleashed a punishing air war against Iraq and a five-day ground juggernaut that sent Iraqi forces reeling in disarray back to Baghdad.
After the Gulf War, Bush basked in the biggest outpouring of patriotism and pride in America’s military since World War II, and his approval ratings soared to nearly 90 percent.
The other battles Bush fought as president, including a war on drugs and a crusade to make American children the best educated in the world, were not so decisively won.
He rode into office pledging to make the United States a ‘kinder, gentler’ nation and calling on Americans to volunteer their time for good causes – an effort he said would create ‘a thousand points of light.’
It was Bush’s violation of a different pledge, the no-new-taxes promise, that helped sink his bid for a second term. He abandoned the idea in his second year, cutting a deficit-reduction deal that angered many congressional Republicans and contributed to GOP losses in the 1990 midterm elections.
An avid outdoorsman who took Theodore Roosevelt as a model, Bush sought to safeguard the environment and signed the first improvements to the Clean Air Act in more than a decade. It was activism with a Republican cast, allowing polluters to buy others’ clean-air credits and giving industry flexibility on how to meet tougher goals on smog.
He also signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act to ban workplace discrimination against people with disabilities and require improved access to public places and transportation.
Bush failed to rein in the deficit, which had tripled to $3trillion under Reagan and galloped ahead by as much as $300 billion a year under Bush, who put his finger on it in his inauguration speech: ‘We have more will than wallet.’
Seven years of economic growth ended in mid-1990, just as the Gulf crisis began to unfold. Bush insisted the recession would be ‘short and shallow,’ and lawmakers did not even try to pass a jobs bill or other relief measures.
Bush’s true interests lay elsewhere, outside the realm of nettlesome domestic politics. ‘I love coping with the problems in foreign affairs,’ he told a child who asked what he liked best about being president.
He operated at times like a one-man State Department, on the phone at dawn with his peers – Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, Francois Mitterrand of France, Germany’s Helmut Kohl.
Communism began to crumble on his watch, with the Berlin Wall coming down, the Warsaw Pact disintegrating and the Soviet satellites falling out of orbit.
He seized leadership of the NATO alliance with a bold and ultimately successful proposal for deep troop and tank cuts in Europe. Huge crowds cheered him on a triumphal tour through Poland and Hungary.
Bush’s invasion of Panama in December 1989 was a military precursor of the Gulf War: a quick operation with a resoundingly superior American force. But in Panama, the troops seized dictator Manuel Noriega and brought him back to the United States in chains to stand trial on drug-trafficking charges.
Months after the Gulf War, Washington became engrossed in a different sort of confrontation over one of Bush’s nominees to the Supreme Court.
Clarence Thomas, a little-known federal appeals court judge, was accused of sexual harassment by a former colleague named Anita Hill. His confirmation hearings exploded into a national spectacle, sparking an intense debate over race, gender and the modern workplace. Thomas was eventually confirmed.
In the closing days of his 1992 campaign, Bush fought the impression that he was distant and disconnected from the people
In the closing days of the 1992 campaign, Bush fought the impression that he was distant and disconnected, and he seemed to struggle against the younger, more empathetic Clinton.
During a campaign visit to a grocers’ convention, Bush reportedly expressed amazement when shown an electronic checkout scanner. Critics seized on the moment, saying it indicated that the president had become disconnected from voters.
Later at a town-hall style debate, he paused to look at his wristwatch – a seemingly innocent glance that became freighted with deeper meaning because it seemed to reinforce the idea of a bored, impatient incumbent.
In the same debate, Bush became confused by a woman’s question about whether the deficit had affected him personally. Clinton, with apparent ease, left his seat, walked to the edge of the stage to address the woman and offered a sympathetic answer.
He lost his bid for re-election to Clinton in a campaign in which businessman H. Ross Perot took almost 19 percent of the vote as an independent candidate.
Bush said the pain of losing in 1992 was eased by the warm reception he received after leaving office.
‘I lost in ’92 because people still thought the economy was in the tank, that I was out of touch and I didn’t understand that,’ he said in an AP interview shortly before the dedication of his presidential library in 1997. ‘The economy wasn’t in the tank, and I wasn’t out of touch, but I lost. I couldn’t get through this hue and cry for “change, change, change” and “The economy is horrible, still in recession”.’
Bush complained that media-created ‘myths’ gave voters a mistaken impression that he did not identify with the lives of ordinary Americans. He decided he lost because he ‘just wasn’t a good enough communicator.’
Eight years later he would watch his son, George W, be twice elected to the presidency – only the second father-and-son chief executives, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
Eight years after he left office, Bush Snr watched his son, George W, be twice elected to the presidency
The pair became the second father-and-son chief executives in history, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams
Once out of office, Bush was content to remain on the sidelines, except for an occasional speech or paid appearance and visits abroad. He backed Clinton on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which had its genesis during his own presidency. He visited the Middle East, where he was revered for his defense of Kuwait. And he returned to China, where he was welcomed as ‘an old friend’ from his days as the U.S. ambassador there.
He later teamed with Clinton to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005. During their wide-ranging travels, the political odd couple grew close.
‘Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton, of all people?’ Bush quipped in October 2005.
In his post-presidency, Bush’s popularity rebounded with the growth of his reputation as a fundamentally decent and well-meaning leader who, although he was not a stirring orator or a dreamy visionary, was a steadfast humanitarian. Elected officials and celebrities of both parties publicly expressed their fondness.
After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush quickly began building an international military coalition that included other Arab states. After liberating Kuwait, he rejected suggestions that the US carry the offensive to Baghdad, choosing to end the hostilities a mere 100 hours after the start of the ground war.
‘That wasn’t our objective,’ he told The Associated Press in 2011 from his office just a few blocks from his Houston home. ‘The good thing about it is there was so much less loss of human life than had been predicted and indeed than we might have feared.’
But the decisive military defeat did not lead to the regime’s downfall, as many in the administration had hoped.
‘I miscalculated,’ Bush acknowleged. His legacy was dogged for years by doubts about the decision not to remove Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi leader was eventually ousted in 2003, in the war led by Bush’s son that was followed by a long, bloody insurgency.
A Bush family portrait taken in the East Room of the White House in 2005 is seen above
Bush approached old age with gusto, celebrating his 75th and 80th birthdays by skydiving over College Station, Texas, the home of his presidential library. He did it again on his 85th birthday in 2009, parachuting near his oceanfront home in Kennebunkport, Maine. He used his presidential library at Texas A&M University as a base for keeping active in civic life.
He became the patriarch of one of the nation’s most prominent political families. In addition to George W. becoming president, another son, Jeb, was elected Florida governor in 1998 and made an unsuccessful run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
Bush is survived by five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and two siblings.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 73 years, Barbara, his second child Pauline Robinson ‘Robin’ Bush, and his brothers Prescott and William ‘Bucky’ Bush.
WORLD LEADERS PAY TRIBUTE TO GEORGE H.W. BUSH
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania
‘Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service – to be, in his words, ‘a thousand points of light’ illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world. His example lives on, and will continue to stir future Americans to pursue a greater cause.’
First Daughter Ivanka Trump
‘As I join a grieving nation in honoring the legacy of our 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush, we remember with gratitude his lifetime of service and commitment. May he rest in peace reunited with his beloved wife and daughter.’
Former President Barack Obama
‘America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude. Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family tonight – and all who were inspired by George and Barbara’s example.’
Bush Snr (left) watches as his son (right) gives an address following the election of 44th President Barack Obama (center)
Former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton
‘George H.W. Bush was a beloved father & grandfather, a war hero, a public servant, & a class act. In my experiences w/ him, I always valued his desire to listen, look at evidence & ask for ideas, even from people w/ different beliefs. My heart goes out to the entire Bush family.’
‘I am saddened by the passing away of your father, President George H.W. Bush. I offer my profound condolences to you and your family at this difficult time. He was, in fact, the first American president that I was privileged to meet. I recall being deeply touched by your father’s concern for the Tibetan people and the situation in Tibet.’
‘It was with sadness that I learned of the death of President George H.W. Bush last night. President Bush was a great friend and ally of the United Kingdom. He was also a patriot, serving his country with honour and distinction in Office and during the Second World War.
‘Prince Philip and I remember our days in Texas in 1991 with great fondness. My thoughts and prayers are with President Bush’s family and the American people.’
Former President Bill Clinton
‘I will be forever grateful for the friendship we formed. From the moment I met him as a young governor invited to his home in Kennebunkport, I was struck by the kindness he showed to Chelsea, by his innate and genuine decency, and by his devotion to Barbara, his children, and their growing brood.’
‘Few Americans have been—or will ever be—able to match President Bush’s record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it; from his military service in World War II, to his work in Congress, the United Nations, China, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Vice Presidency and the Presidency, where he worked to move the post Cold War world toward greater unity, peace, and freedom.’
Once out of office, Bush remained in the political arena but watched mainly from the sidelines, except for an occasional speech or paid appearance and visits abroad. He and Bill Clinton grew close in the decade after they’d been in competition
UK Prime Minister Teresa May
‘President George H.W. Bush’s ethos of public service was the guiding thread of his life and an example to us all. It took him from service in World War II to his stewardship of the CIA and his direction of the Gulf War as commander-in-chief. And in navigating a peaceful end to the Cold War, he made the world a safer place for generations to come.
‘At each stage of his remarkable career, the President worked side-by-side with his friends, colleagues and counterparts in the United Kingdom. Today, Britain remembers a great statesman and a true friend of our country. We send our deepest condolences to the American people and to the family he leaves behind.’
French President Emanuel Macron
‘On behalf of the French people, I convey all my condolences to the American nation for the loss of former President George Bush. He was a world leader who strongly supported the alliance with Europe. Our sympathy to his family and beloved ones.’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
‘The German people had in him a true friend who recognized the significance of this historic hour and gave us his trust and support. The courageous and peaceful revolution by people east of the Iron Curtain met with the courage and skill and of a statesman who, together with others, led Europe and the trans-Atlantic partnership through this upheaval and ushered in a new era.’
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
‘George H. W. Bush’s exemplary service and deep commitment to his country informed everything he accomplished over his decades in public life. Sophie and I offer our condolences to his family and the American people on his passing.’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
‘On behalf of the people of Israel, I send heartfelt condolences to the Bush family and the American people on the passing of a great American patriot, President George H.W. Bush.
‘His wise leadership at the end of the Cold War helped steer the world to a peaceful transition and the spread of democracy. The people of Israel will always remember his commitment to Israel’s security, his important contribution to the liberation of Soviet Jewry, and his efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East at the Madrid Conference.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin
‘Dear George, please accept my deepest condolences over the passing of your father, former U.S. President, George Herbert Walker Bush.
‘An outstanding politician, he devoted his entire life to serving his country, both as a serviceman during wartime and in high-ranking public posts in peacetime. As U.S. president during one of the most important periods of world history, he showed political wisdom and foresight, and always sought balanced decisions even in the most difficult situations.
‘George Bush Sr. was well aware of the importance of a constructive dialogue between the two major nuclear powers and took great efforts to strengthen Russian-American relations and cooperation in international security. I had the good fortune to have met with him several times. I recall with particular warmth him organizing our meeting at your wonderful summer home in Kennebunkport.
‘My fellow citizens and I will always cherish the memory of George Bush Sr. In this sad time, I would like to pass worlds of heartfelt sympathy and support to all members of your large family. May you have endurance during this time of grievous and tragic loss.’