George and Barbara Bush, a Storybook 73-Year Marriage

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They met at a Christmas dance. She was 17. He was 18.

Two years later they were married. Now 73 years later, they are the longest-married couple in presidential history.

“George Bush knows how I feel,” Barbara Bush has said. “He is the hero… He is my hero.”

With her former president husband still at her side, former first lady Barbara Bush has decided to decline further medical treatment for health problems and focus instead on “comfort care” at their home in Houston.

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)

Family spokesman Jim McGrath disclosed Barbara Bush’s decision Sunday. The 92-year-old had been in the hospital recently for congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She had heart valve replacement surgery in 2009 and a long history of treatment for Graves’ disease, a thyroid condition.

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)

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

The former president “still says, ‘I love you Barbie’ every night,” Hager said on NBC’s Today, where she works. They had six children, including Hager’s father, former president George W. Bush, making Barbara Bush one of only two first ladies to also be a presidential mother. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, the nation’s second president, and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.

George H.W. Bush, 93, has described the mother of their six children as “the mainstay, of course, the parent who was always there to help solve the daily problems and emergencies of teen and preteen life.”

FILE – In this Sept. 10, 1997 file photo, former President George Bush and his wife Barbara unveil a bust of the president during a ceremony to open The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University in College Station, 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/David J. Phillip)

In her 1994 memoir, Barbara Bush describes her and her husband as “the two luckiest people in the world, and when all the dust is settled and all the crowds are gone, the things that matter are faith, family and friends. We have been inordinately blessed, and we know that.”

FILE – In this June 6, 1964 file photo, George Bush, candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, gets returns by phone at his headquarters in Houston as his wife Barbara, beams her pleasure at the news. 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/Ed Kolenovsky, File)

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.

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)

“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.

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)

“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.

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)

“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.

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)

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 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)

Source: Associated Press