Former president George H.W. Bush thanked
fellow Americans Wednesday for their
"outpouring of love" following the loss of
his wife of seven decades, Barbara, saying
the tributes flowing in for the one-time
first lady were "lifting us all up."
Long seen as the pillar of one of America's
most prominent families, as wife to the 41st
US president and mother to the 43rd, Barbara
Bush died Tuesday at her home in Texas aged
92, surrounded by her family.
Her 93-year-old husband, who was at her side
until the end, holding her hand, was said to
be heart-broken at the loss of "his beloved
But on Wednesday the ex-commander-in-chief
struck a resolutely stoical tone.
"I always knew Barbara as the most beloved
woman in the world," he wrote in a
statement. "In fact I used to tease her that
I had a complex about that fact."
"But the truth is the outpouring of love and
friendship being directed at The Enforcer is
lifting us all up" -- he said, using a fond
nickname coined by the Bush clan for their
"We know life will go on -- as she would
have it," he added. "So cross the Bushes off
your worry list."
Known for her trademark faux pearls and
tart-tongued comments about life in and out
of Washington -- but also her deep loyalty
to family and self-deprecating humor --
Barbara Bush was in many ways a figure more
popular among ordinary Americans than her
high-flying husband and sons.
Having undergone heart surgery in 2009, she
was treated for years for Graves' disease, a
thyroid condition. As her health failed in
recent days, she was moved into comfort care
at her home in Houston.
AFP/File / CARLOS SCHIEBECK
George H.W. Bush with Barbara after being
sworn in as 41st president in 1989
"As a result of her soul being comforted
on her deathbed, my soul is comforted," said
her son George W. Bush, who won the White
House eight years after his father left it.
"It's the end of a beautiful life," he told
Barbara Bush is survived by five children,
17 grandchildren and seven
great-grandchildren. She lost a sixth child
-- daughter Robin -- to leukemia as a
She will be laid to rest in Texas after a
memorial ceremony Saturday in Houston, to be
attended by First Lady Melania Trump, as
well as the former president Barack Obama
and his wife Michelle, and the former vice
president Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne.
Former president Bill Clinton and his wife
Hillary were also reportedly due to attend.
President Donald Trump ordered flags to fly
at half-staff at all public buildings and
military posts in Bush's honor, as he hailed
her work to promote literacy as first lady
from 1989 to 1993, and beyond.
- 'Grit and grace' -
Tributes poured in from across the political
spectrum, including from the Obamas who
voiced gratitude for "to Mrs Bush for the
generosity she showed to us throughout our
time in the White House."
"But we're even more grateful for the way
she lived her life -- as a testament to the
fact that public service is an important and
noble calling; as an example of the humility
and decency that reflects the very best of
the American spirit."
Bill Clinton, who succeeded her husband in
office, described Bush as "a remarkable
woman" who brought together "grit and grace,
brains and beauty."
"She was fierce and feisty in support of her
family and friends, her country and her
causes. She showed us what an honest,
vibrant, full life looks like."
AFP/File / RENAUD GIROUX
Barbara Bush, shown here in 1992, was the
matriarch of one of America's great
Barbara met her husband-to-be at age 16
when she was a schoolgirl and he was a
student at an elite Massachusetts
preparatory school. They married in 1945
while he was on leave from wartime service.
She made history as one of just two women to
be wife and mother to two US presidents.
Abigail Adams, who died in 1818, was the
Her son Jeb, a two-term Florida governor who
also ran for president, paid tribute to "the
exceptionally gracious, gregarious, fun,
funny, loving, tough, smart, graceful woman
who was the force of nature known as Barbara
Barbara Bush was her husband's companion and
advisor as they traveled the world, moving
multiple times as he rose from Texas oil man
to congressman, US ambassador to the United
Nations and envoy to China, director of the
CIA and eventually to the vice presidency
and the White House.
But she made a point of avoiding direct
involvement in politics, and the posturing
that comes with it -- gaining a reputation
for toughness, wry humor and
"I'm not running for president; George Bush
is," she said at the 1988 Republican
National Convention. "What you see with me
is what you get."