I first met Mrs. Bush in the mid-80s. I had volunteered to photograph an event at an Orange County Mexican restaurant where Vice President Bush was to speak. The day started early in the morning. I checked my monster Minolta 9000 dual strobe smart-backed motor driven auto focus zoom-lensed camera. All ten pounds, including its 18 AA batteries, worked.
The weekend day was bright, and weather perfect for the VP’s speech in the gorgeous patio of the Mexican restaurant which had been established by a family from Mexico. Vice President Bush was to speak outdoors, after some group photos indoors and a short welcoming speech by the owner’s wife, in English, apparently a relatively new second language for her.
She stood on an 18-inch platform, behind a microphone, in front of which the “special photo guests” and others, including her family, were standing. Barbara Bush was standing, front row, slightly off center, in her dual-strand pearl choker and polka dot dress. Standing next to Mrs. Bush, on her right, I could raise my camera without bothering her.
The wife began her speech in English with mild apprehension in her voice. Mrs. Bush, after just a few words, began projecting assurance, confidence, and “you go girl” across the six feet or so separating them. Mrs. Bush’s lips moved, no sound, and the speaker seemed instantly fueled by Barbara Bush’s unselfish, supportive presence. Mrs. Bush’s support was palpable even to me.
The speaker continued, not in smooth English, but her tone was confident, and maybe even assertive. I turned left and saw nothing but gladness on Mrs. Bush’s glowing face. I never even raised the camera.
About an hour later after the outdoor patio event, Mrs. Bush was meeting and greeting folks after her husband’s speech. As I turned to end the day, a fellow event goer engaged me with comments on my camera, and said, only half-jokingly, that taking photos must really be tiring. Mrs. Bush, who was just behind me, evidently heard the remark, and as she turned my new acquaintance also half-jokingly said it was now my turn to be photographed.
Mrs. Bush volunteered that this was so, motioning for me to give up my camera to my “friend”. She placed her right arm over my shoulder as my strobes went off. The color photo shows my tiredness, her arm lightly on my shoulder, her smile gently expressing, “Naw, you’re not that tired.”
I had the pleasure of shaking her hand, as the First Lady, in receiving lines, in later years. In one instance, after having shook her hand and then President Bush’s, the President suddenly exclaimed, referring to the next in line, “Bahr-bra! It is Ruf-fu-sus’ brother!!” She exclaimed warmly. I heard later that the brother was detailed to the White House in some capacity.
Mrs. Bush, often reputed to be a class act, behaved as such.