As one visitor of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum said Sunday, the former president leaves behind a “huge” legacy.
Bush died Nov. 30 at age 94 after a life dedicated to public service.
“We’ve always admired him not just as a president but as a human being for his compassion to others, his empathy, his humility, his whole thought of servant leadership and putting others first,” museum visitor Lori Steele said as she left flowers at the base of the Bush statue located between the library and the school that share names with the 41st president.
“Just a combination of his service to the country in both politics and the war, just let him know that he we appreciate (him),” Dale Tarney, who stopped in College Station on his way to Waco from Sugar Land, said.
Most museum guests on this crisp Sunday never knew the man, or only saw him on television. But some met him through various life experiences.
“He checked every box,” Dale Laine said. “On integrity, service, commitment, loyalty, and he was one of a kind a fantastic human being to top it off.”
Laine served as George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff while the younger Bush was Texas governor, before he became our nation’s 43rd president.
“I had the fortune to be on the train from Houston when they came to break ground here from the library which was a special moment,” Laine recalled as he came to pay his respects at the grave site where Bush will be buried alongside his wife of 73 years, Barbara, and their daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia at age 3.
“Their love story,” Kendra Tarney swooned as she and her husband visited the statue.
“We have been married ourselves for 35 years but that still nothing in comparison to him and Barbara Bush,” her husband chimed in. “We’ve still got a long way to go.”
Condolence books in the library lobby quickly filled with notes from people who traveled from Texas and beyond to honor the fallen president.
“I’ve heard people saying, ‘Well I didn’t vote for him but I respected him,'” library director Warren Finch said. “So there are people here just want to come in and sign the condolence book and give them regards.”
Finch noted Bush’s post-presidency life was “remarkably long.”
“He was here a lot, for speeches, he was at the Bush School, we have programs that he was here all the time for,” Finch said, explaining that Bush had an apartment across the plaza where the former president would frequently stay. “(There are) great stories about him walking around campus and people saying, ‘That looks like the president,’ and then go ,’That is the president.'”
“He was very outgoing, friendly, and loved being here and we loved having him here,” Finch added.
Finch recalled an event a few years ago about offshore drilling, and Bush, a former oilman showed his mind was still sharp.
“We had these three rocks sitting in the exhibit, just not very remarkable looking rocks, and this was a couple years ago after he was in a wheelchair, and he looked at the three rocks and he says, ‘That is striated rock, there’s oil in those rocks,” and I was like- that’s amazing,” Finch said with a smile.
“He’s not a geologist but all these years later he can still look at the rocks and tell what kind of rocks they were,” he continued.
Bush’s burial will take place Thursday behind the library pond after he lies in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda this week. Loved ones honor him with funerals in Washington, D.C. and Houston.
The library will have extended hours Monday, will be closed Tuesday through Thursday for funeral preparations, and will reopen with extended hours on Friday.